With its first round pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, Orlando City SC decided to select Daryl Dike, a forward who played his college soccer at the University of Virginia. By all accounts this was a rather surprising pick for the club — not because Dike is a forward, as its safe to say it was expected that Orlando would try to take a forward early in the draft given the team’s offensive struggles last year.
Rather, its surprising because plenty of people assumed that Dike would already be off the board by the time Orlando’s turn came with the fifth overall pick. TopDrawerSoccer, and SBISoccer, both had Dike being taken before the fifth pick, and while MLSSoccer.com did have Dike going to Orlando at number five, Travis Clark predicted that either he or eventual number one pick Robbie Robinson would go first overall. He merely put Robinson over Dike in the mock draft due to a “coin flip.”
In short, Luiz Muzzi and Oscar Pareja were probably a little surprised that he was still available for the Lions, but now that he’s wearing purple there are plenty of reasons to think he could be one of the steals of the draft.
Simply put, Dike was arguably the best forward in the draft, although a case can certainly be made for Robinson. The 20-year-old only spent two seasons in college but scored 15 goals and tallied nine assists in 35 appearances. A rate of .42 goals per game isn’t bad at all, and the nine assists would seem to indicate that he’s capable of doing more than putting the ball in the back of the net. He also played four games with the OKC Energy U-23 team during the 2018 USL League 2 season and banged in four goals for them, so from a numbers standpoint he’s capable of scoring consistently. Dike was also a key figure in the Cavaliers’ run to the 2019 NCAA men’s soccer championship game, scoring several key goals in the playoffs even though his team eventually came up short in penalty kicks.
There’s more to Dike than just the numbers though. Perusing tape of him in college reveals a big (6-foot-1), physical player capable of winning and holding up the ball, as well as playing with a defender on his back and being able to successfully turn him. In addition, he can find teammates moving into space and accurately play balls through to them with the right amount of touch and pace.
He’s also a powerful dribbler that players struggle to dispossess, and is a danger aerially from set pieces — something that Orlando was rather lacking last year. While he didn’t seem to score any particularly stunning goals, you don’t get 10 in 23 games like he did in 2019 by accident, but it will be interesting to see how those numbers hold up against more difficult competition.
Aside from what Dike brings to the table abilities-wise, he’s simply a player at a position of need for the Lions. The team’s offensive struggles were well documented last year, and while he technically is now the sixth forward on the team’s roster, it’s an area where the Lions need to do their due diligence when it comes to signings in order to rectify last year’s woes in front of goal. Benji Michel was impressive last year in the rather limited number of minutes he played and, while Chris Mueller started well, his production tallied off. Dom Dwyer’s scoring struggles were well documented, Santiago Patino only played 322 minutes in the league and is currently a fairly unknown quantity, and, while Tesho Akindele banged in 10 goals, that number represents a pretty major outlier for him in his MLS career.
While the offensive difficulties were by no means purely the fault of Orlando’s strikers, bringing in a proven collegiate quantity like Dike certainly isn’t going to hurt the team. The worst case scenario is that he spends preseason with the team, ends up cutting his teeth with OCB or going on loan in the USL Championship during 2019, and simply continues to develop for later down the road. Meanwhile, the best case scenario is that he acclimates quickly and ends up knocking in seven or eight goals and earning the team a few points it probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
The final thing to consider is that Dike is a Generation Adidas player. That means that while he’s on his rookie contract he won’t count against the Lions’ salary budget. Essentially, if he does find his shooting boots then he’ll be a pretty low cost option for Orlando City in the same vein that Akindele was last year.
In the end, only time will tell how wise of a pick this turns out to be. But Dike is a player with tons of upside and not a ton of downside other than possibly his relatively few games at the college level compared to some other players. Considering Orlando wasn’t really supposed to have a chance at getting him in the first place though, he could well be quite the steal.