Daryl Dike has not-so-quietly made a name for himself in the world of U.S. soccer. He put up a Rookie of the Year performance in MLS in 2020, only for the league to scrap the award. This success caught the eye of U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, as well as some teams abroad, and the 20-year-old is currently out on loan. As he continues to improve with Barnsley, how will this translate to MLS when he returns?
Dike’s loan could see him stay with Barnsley. The loan has an option to buy but is believed to be too high of a price for the second division side to actually pay. Even if Barnsley earns promotion, the club would then have to determine if Dike is ready to play in the Premier League before considering a purchase. Regardless, Dike has been excelling in England and has even been compared by one teammate to Romelu Lukaku. His game-winner over the past weekend is evidence of his power and ability inside the 18.
When the forward returns to Orlando — which will happen unless something extraordinary occurs, according to Head Coach Oscar Pareja — he likely will do so as the starting striker, although he may have Alexandre Pato alongside him. A year ago, Dike was buried on the depth chart and barely saw the field until after the MLS is Back Tournament. But he took his chances when he got them and certainly made the most of it.
The American finished his rookie season with eight goals and four assists in 22 games (17 starts). His potential has been clear from day one. During preseason, he was getting in good areas, challenging in the box, and soaking up every moment. And when he finally got on the field for MLS action, Dike immediately showed off his skill set. While he didn’t score in his first 15 minutes of action, he was always on the move and forced the defense to keep an eye on him.
Dike is not the only Orlando City rookie to do well. Cyle Larin was the Lions’ first-ever draft pick. His 17-goal season in league play not only led his team but was also the fifth-most in MLS. He was the clear choice for Rookie of the Year in 2015. Chris Mueller put up a Rookie of the Year-level performance in 2018 but finished second in the voting.
A theme between the two is that both Larin and Mueller did even better in their sophomore seasons. While Larin’s goal total dipped slightly, he improved overall as a player and started to add assists into his game. Mueller turned from an energizer bunny into a player that couldn’t be kept on the bench. This is also the trend that Dike is currently on.
Expect for Dike to continue to improve and increase his goal and assist totals from last year. While he comes in as the starter, there shouldn’t be much pressure on Dike. Orlando has added quality depth into its attack this off-season. Pareja has shown that he is not afraid to go to the bench.
One of the negatives to Dike’s game is the number of fouls that he gets called for. While he uses his size and strength to slow down play and bring in his teammates, it also causes the referees to call fouls on him. This is an integral part of his game that he will need to improve.
If Dike continues to develop, he will also see a more significant role on the national team. The forward position is thin for the USMNT, especially with Jordan Morris’ injury, and Dike has an opportunity to become the main man for Berhalter if his game keeps progressing.
As Dike gains experience and improves, Orlando City could struggle to keep him. Bigger clubs around the world will start calling more often. It would be great for him and Orlando City to see him jump to a team in a major league in Europe. Still, for now, he is a Lion and will help Orlando in its quest for silverware in 2021.