Who will Orlando City Start at Striker in 2015?



As one of the most accomplished attacking midfielders in the game of soccer, Kaká has played behind some pretty well known strikers in his career.

Ronaldo. Andriy Shevchenko. Cristiano Ronaldo. Mario Balotelli. The list goes on.

But when he came to Orlando City SC in the summer of 2014, Kaká knew what he was signing up for. His days of firing passes to Ballon d’Or winners were over, as the Brazilian legend would be asked to help build a club and grow a league still looking for national (and, eventually, international) prestige.

In that sense, Orlando City should feel no pressure to complement their record signing with a striker who even approaches his notability or international acclaim.

And the Lions haven't tried to do that.

What Orlando City has done is assemble an intriguing mix of offensive talent at the top of Adrian Heath's 4-2-3-1 formation and put together a roster that provides the flexibility to tinker with that position.

So, who exactly will be starting at striker for the Lions on March 8?

Well, the battle for this position will be fierce in preseason training, but things should eventually come down to DP signing Bryan Rochez and Martin Paterson, currently on loan with the club from Huddersfield Town.

As players, Paterson and Rochez couldn't be more different, but they both have something unique to offer the club.

Paterson gives the Lions an experienced veteran at striker and someone who will not be overwhelmed by the MLS spotlight. He helped Burnley gain promotion to the Premier League in 2009 and has 22 caps with the Northern Ireland national team.

More importantly though, Paterson has a chip on his shoulder, after effectively being sent to Orlando by Huddersfield Town in order to play out the rest of his contract.

Rochez has unlimited potential — something he's shown after lighting up the Honduran leagues as a teenager — but he's still raw and could face a rough transition to MLS. Still though, he's the kind of player built for Adrian Heath's system, and should reap the benefits of playing in front of such a strong midfield.

But when it's all said and done, look for Orlando City to start Martin Paterson at striker on opening night.

He's not the flashiest choice, but Paterson should fit well into Heath's 4-2-3-1, which is built to capitalize on a strong midfield. Paterson won't be asked to lead the Lions in scoring this year (though that would certainly be nice), but rather to help facilitate an offense with a ton of potential firepower.

The 4-2-3-1 allows the left and right backs to move up and play as wingers. When those players are Brek Shea and talented youngsters like Rafael Ramos and Tyler Turner, the 4-2-3-1 makes perfect sense. But the formation requires a striker with the patience and ability to get the midfield involved on offense.

If Orlando is serious about contending immediately, then this is the right decision. While Rochez may take time to adjust to speed and physicality of MLS, Paterson should face an easier transition, after a career spent playing in Europe. He’s already started both preseason games for Orlando, and scored on Wednesday against FC Dallas. He also drew the foul that led to Kaká’s penalty kick goal.

As a young DP, it's almost a guarantee that Rochez will eventually get a shot to lock down the striker position, but now is not that time. He needs to gain some experience in MLS before the coaching staff can realistically expect him to help lead the team on offense. And to be perfectly honest, the team needs to gain some experience too.

Rochez will benefit from a midfield that has the ability to get him the ball and create chances in front of goal. In highlights from his days in Honduras, the majority of Rochez's goals come from headers or one-touch finishes off a cross from the midfield. This will only happen once Kaka and his wings have figured out how to play together and developed some degree of familiarity.

Right now, Orlando needs a striker with the experience and composure to facilitate an offense that will be learning on the fly; someone who will not get flustered when things don't quite work out. The club needs someone who's been around the block and knows how to make adjustments as the growth of team requires them.

Orlando City needs someone like Martin Paterson.


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