Daryl Dike’s time at Orlando City has come to an end. The prolific young striker officially transferred to West Bromwich Albion in the EFL Championship today for an undisclosed fee. The Athletic reported the fee at around $10 million ($). While reports earlier in the day suggested Dike would be loaned to West Brom, the clubs agreed to a permanent transfer, with Dike agreeing to a four-and-a-half year contract with the Baggies.
“I am extremely grateful to everyone at Orlando City for believing in me and for giving me the opportunity to play for this incredible club,” Dike said in a club press release. “This was a great place for me to start my career and I am thankful to the club for helping me toward this next step of my journey. I will always cherish my time here with my teammates, coaches, and staff, but I’ll especially miss the fans and the incredible atmosphere they create for each home game.”
The 21-year-old spent two seasons with Orlando City after being drafted in the first round (No. 5 overall) in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. He made his debut as a Lion against the Montreal Impact in the MLS is Back round of 16 last year, and played two more times in that tournament. He went on to play in 35 regular-season matches with Orlando, including 30 starts, for a total of 2,547 minutes. He contributed 18 goals and seven assists on 63 shots, getting 27 on target. He passed well (71.1% in 2020 and 72.1% in 2021), providing 14 key passes. Dike drew 71 fouls while committing 40 and was never booked during the regular season in his time in MLS.
He also played in all three of Orlando City’s playoff games to date, starting all three and scoring one goal on five total shots (two on target). He suffered seven fouls and committed four, and picked up one yellow card in the 2020 postseason.
Dike’s play with the Lions got him on the USMNT radar and he has already made eight appearances and scored three goals for the United States at the senior level. Although he was not part of Gregg Berhalter’s December camp, the USMNT manager said it was to get Dike some much-needed rest and recovery time, and he could be in line for an appearance in the January camp, although that could now be in jeopardy with his move to Europe.
“We would like to thank Daryl for all he has given to Orlando City throughout his time here,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in the club’s release. “From the moment we drafted him, we knew Daryl was a special talent, and this opportunity is a credit to both his natural talent and his dedication over the last two years. We are happy that he was able to develop here in Orlando and grow into the player he is today. While we know he will go on to do tremendous things in his career, it’s an honor to say that Daryl got his start here in Orlando, that we played a strong role in helping him get to this new challenge. We wish Daryl nothing but the best in this next chapter.”
Dike is reunited with former coach Valérien Ismaël, under whom he played on loan last season with Barnsley. The Oklahoma native scored nine goals in 19 appearances with Barnsley and his arrival with the team sparked that team’s run to the promotion playoffs, where his team fell just short. West Brom sits fourth in the EFL Championship at the moment and Ismaël will expect Dike to help the team climb in the standings as he did at Barnsley and perhaps push the team into promotion to the Premier League.
“I’m delighted we have completed the transfer of Dike,” said the gaffer. “He was always our first target and priority. There’s a lot of teamwork that has gone into this deal and I would personally like to thank Mr Lai, Ken, Ron Gourlay and Ian Pearce for making it happen so quickly. They have all worked very hard on the transfer.
“Dike has everything we need from the No.9 position. He has energy, strength – he challenges defenders – and he scores goals.
“I worked with him at Barnsley and I know him very well. He has the mentality. He is 21 years old and is still a young player – but he has a lot of experience.”
Dike will be playing in his fourth consecutive professional season without a significant off-season break since he left college, so while this is a good move for the young forward, he’ll also need to be durable to withstand the rigors of the schedule ahead. Then he might be able to finally get into a normal season/off-season rhythm.
Lions fans will no doubt watch his European career with interest.
What It Means for Orlando City
This is a blow to Orlando City fans, because Dike was a popular Lion and is a talented player. If the reported fee is accurate, it’s a solid bit of business for the Lions, who drafted and devloped the player out of college. However, without knowing the transfer fee, it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much this helps Orlando City financially, but it definitely hurts the club on the field until a suitable replacement can be found. And that won’t be easy. Dike possesses a rare combination of skill, athleticism, soccer IQ, and power that few can match. His movement and footwork are as important parts of his toolbox as his muscle. He overmatches opponents both in the air and on the ground and his intelligent movement puts him in dangerous spots before the defense can do much about it. it will take some doing to find someone who can replace him in the attack.
The Lions have three Designated Player slots to work with — although whether the re-signed Mauricio Pereyra occupies one when the final roster determinations are made or not remains to be seen — and must replace three-fourths of the starting attack this off-season. And that off-season is dwindling, with camp just 15 days from opening. The preseason is an important time for teams to coalesce and having guys arriving late can affect team chemistry as well as incoming foreign players’ time to acclimatize to a new league and a new team.
Muzzi and company will have to find replacements for Nani, Dike, and Chris Mueller this off-season. Part of the solution could happen soon if the Lions can get the widely reported bid for 20-year-old Argentinian winger Gastón González across the finish line. The club is also reportedly in advanced talks with Alexandre Pato for his return, but with his history of injuries — including missing nearly all of 2021 — it would be unwise to count on him to be the full-time replacement for Dike up top.
In short, the Lions have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it if the club is going to keep pace in the rapidly improving MLS Eastern Conference. This is a critical first off-season for the Wilf family since taking over ownership in 2021. The money exists to cover for Orlando’s losses this off-season but we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how and when that cash is used.