Daryl Dike played in his first MLS match on Saturday night. The Orlando City rookie entered the game in the 75th minute of the Lions’ 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact. Dike was productive in his first professional outing; however, his work did not translate into goals.
The Virginia product finished the match with one shot, 11 touches, two passes (both unsuccessful), three fouls, and a yellow card.
Despite the poor stats, Dike was active off the ball, got into promising positions, and was a bit unlucky at times. Much work still needs to be done, but he came on and helped Orlando secure victory and move on to the next round.
“It’s going to make them (Dike and Joey DeZart) grow a lot, the circumstances of the tournament not just debuting in any game, they’re debuting in a game that needed personality, that needs their presence in the game to seal it, to get into spaces and obviously to get the win,” said Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja. “It’s a responsibility that they absorbed well, and we are very proud. The boys are prepared, we’re going to give the opportunity to all, but they are earning that opportunity. It’s not given to them. They are earning it, so tonight was a good demonstration of they were the ones who needed to do that job, and they came out very sharp and did a great job.”
Below is a breakdown of how Dike did in his first MLS match — Dike is number 18 in the videos.
The first thing that stands out is Dike’s work off the ball. The majority of the time he remained between the width of the six-yard box. His runs kept him in the middle of the field — the optimum place for a striker to score.
He was also never stagnant. Anytime Orlando had the ball, the 20-year-old was making runs, both horizontally and vertically. In the clip below, he made slight movements in front of and behind Jukka Raitala. This put Dike in the best position to receive a pass, but it also forced Raitala to keep a close eye on the forward.
The next clip shows Dike using his movement to open up the field for Uri Rosell. Dike could have easily stayed in the center of the field, but instead he opened up and drew the defender with him.
As Uri dribbled up the field, the Orlando players were clustered together. This made it easy for Montreal to defend. Dike saw this and moved out wide from his central position. This allowed Andrés Perea to make a forward run. These two movements forced Montreal to hesitate for just about two seconds, but that was enough time for Uri to find Kyle Smith wide open on the touchline.
The last example of excellent off-the-ball movement should have ended in a goal. This play started with Nani drawing defenders away, and Joao Moutinho made a perfect pass to Perea. Dike was standing with the last defender and slowed his run to remain onside. When Perea did not pass the ball, Dike hesitated to stay onside and then made his run again. The ball never came, but he was in the perfect position to receive a through ball and be one-on-one in front of the goal.
These movements may seem small, but they bring another level to the attack. There are countless examples in previous seasons of Orlando players not making these simple runs. The result is stagnant play. Pareja has stated that he wants possession with a purpose. Without runs and off-the-ball movement like these examples from Dike, Orlando will struggle to get the ball into attacking positions.
A perfect example is the movement from Tesho Akindele in the 17th minute. He made a wonderful first-time pass to Chris Mueller, but then ran a vertical route straight to goal. It would have been nearly impossible for Mueller to play in Akindele, and Mueller made the smart choice of passing to Nani instead. Because of the nature of his run, Tesho was in an offside position and struggled to get back into the play, which resulted in loss of possession.
Dike had a few chances to score, and he should have done better on each of the opportunities. Each situation was different, but Dike got himself into dangerous areas three times in 15 minutes.
His first chance came almost immediately after he entered. Dike got the ball out wide and dribbled into the center of the field. After splitting two defenders, Dike had two options — instantly shoot or play in Mueller. Unfortunately, he took the third option of dribbling and lost the ball. The end product was poor, but this should be an essential lesson. There is a lot less time to make a decision in MLS than college. This was a rookie moment that I’m sure he will want back.
Dike’s second big chance came just a few minutes later. Nani played a perfect through ball to the rookie. Dike appeared to have been fouled in the box by Raitala and Clément Diop, though nothing was called. Still, Dike should have hit this ball first time instead of attempting to take a touch around Diop. The result might have been the same, but once again, at least he was in the right position.
Dike’s third chance came in the 90th minute. Nani pressured Saphir Taïder and forced Taïder backwards. Dike saw this, stepped up between Taïder and Luis Binks, and intercepted the ball.
Dike’s first touch failed him. Instead of playing the ball in front of himself, the ball got stuck underneath the rookie’s feet. This slight mishap was enough for Binks to recover. Dike then showed his lack of creativity with the ball at his feet, as he was unable to create space to open up a shot for himself. The end product was dismal, but Dike anticipated the play and created a scoring opportunity. If his first touch is better, Dike is one-on-one with Diop.
The biggest thing that jumps out on the stat sheet is all of Dike’s fouls – three in 15 minutes. That is more fouls than anyone else in the game on Orlando City and tied Victor Wanyama for most in the game. Wanyama played the full 90 minutes, though.
A closer look at these fouls tells a different story. In the 85th minute, the ref called a foul against him. Dike and Zachary Brault-Guillard went for a ball. Brault-Guillard got there first and then collapsed to the ground. It was a soft foul, and it looks like Dike hit the ball, not Brault-Guillard.
The next minute Dike was called for another foul. First, let’s go back to his off-the-ball movement. Nani picked up the ball inside Orlando’s third of the field. Dike was on the right-central part of the middle of the field. First, he opened up and made a run to the left. This gave Nani space to dribble up the field. After Nani played a through ball to Ruan, Dike cut to the near post. He got by Brault-Guillard and was in the perfect place to receive a pass.
This is where the foul occurred. Dike might be the second strongest player in FIFA 20, but he hardly touched Brault-Guillard, and the Montreal player went tumbling to the ground. Questionable officiating on that play.
The third foul was clearly a foul on Dike. He was fighting for the ball and threw Raitala to the ground. Still, the foul did waste a few precious seconds off the clock and allowed Orlando to get organized behind the ball.
Overall, it was a decent performance for the rookie. There is plenty of room to grow but he showed promise. His first 15 minutes showed why Orlando drafted him. Playing in a must-win, elimination match is never easy, especially as a 20-year-old making his professional debut. Dike handled it well and now must continue to grow.