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Orlando City Rookie Striker Daryl Dike Named MLS Player of the Month for August

The big fella had a great restart after MLS is Back.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City rookie striker Daryl Dike has been named MLS Player of the Month for August after a bright start to Phase 1 of Major League Soccer’s return to regular-season play. Dike scored three goals and added two assists in just three matches in the month of August to take the honor, as voted on by members of the media.

Dike is just the second Orlando City player to win this award, joining former Lions’ goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who claimed the honor in April of 2017 after registering four wins and two shutouts that month. Dike and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese made the MLS Team of the Week bench on Aug. 31, joining teammates Chris Mueller, Junior Urso, and Joao Moutinho, as well as Oscar Pareja — who all made the first team.

The Lions’ rookie began his impressive August run with a goal and an assist in Orlando City’s 3-2 road loss at Inter Miami on Aug. 22, then followed that up with his first career brace in the Lions’ 3-1 home win over Nashville SC Aug. 26. Three days later, Dike helped set up Chris Mueller’s goal in a 3-1 road win at Atlanta United — Orlando City’s first win in the series against the Five Stripes.

“Daryl is doing very well,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said at a recent press conference. “As a young player, he has absorbed all the information in the best way — and fast, you know. I think he has rapidly just taken the responsibility, and the concepts, and the idea of our game and he has implemented [them] into his game. So, he has been very productive.”

The 20-year-old has started every match for Orlando City in Phase 1 of the MLS restart. The Lions drafted him out of Virginia in the first round of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft with the fifth overall selection. The 6-foot-2 forward is on a Generation Adidas contract.

“With our first pick we wanted to have something offensively,” Pareja said after the draft. “We were very excited to have Daryl there. He was the top forward in the college game and he’s going to give us a lot of power up front.”

The Edmond, OK native played two years for the Cavaliers, who made the 2020 College Cup final last December. During his freshman season, Dike appeared in 12 games, missing four with an injury. His five goals tied for the team lead and he was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. Last season, Dike started 23 games for the Cavaliers, scoring 10 goals and recording eight assists. In total, he scored 15 goals and recorded nine assists in 35 games in college. Daryl played with the OKC Energy U-23 team in USL League Two during last off-season, playing in four games and scoring three goals.

Dike is the younger brother of forward Bright Dike, a former Notre Dame star from 2005 to 2009, who was drafted by the Columbus Crew and later played with the Portland Timbers (2010-2013) and Toronto FC (2013-2015), and was capped by the Nigerian national team.

The rookie has shown a rare blend of power, skill, and high soccer IQ during the last five matches. His finishing and powerful right foot was never in question, but he also has quick feet, a knack to find the right spaces and drag defenders with him, and the ability to read his teammates’ runs. He seems to have a better first touch than former MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin, while possessing the same finishing skills and more strength in his hold-up play. Although it’s early days for Dike in his professional career, his potential upside is through the roof.

Though his production has returned to Earth the last two matches since the start of September, Dike did register a primary assist Saturday night on Benji Michel’s goal in Orlando’s 1-1 home draw vs. Atlanta. The team just finished a grueling stretch of five matches in 15 days. With a normal week of rest between games, look for the big rookie to once again make his presence felt this Saturday night against Inter Miami.