Rookie has three goals and three assists in five MLS starts

By Official Florida FC

Orlando City did not win its second straight match against sworn rival Atlanta United on Saturday night. The Lions should have, but didn’t.

The disappointment of a 1-1 draw may be mitigated by the identities of who created and scored the Lions’ goal.

Daryl Dike assisted Benji Michel’s goal in first half stoppage time.

“Historically, the rivalry here, Atlanta may have come out on top,” Dike said. “It says a lot about the team, what the expectations we have on ourselves, that a draw isn’t enough for us anymore. We expect to win every, single game. I think tonight we showed it. It was a little bit unfortunate at the end of the day.”

The draw means Orlando is 1-6-3 in 10 all-time meetings against Atlanta.

As for the goal, Michel was in the right place at the right time to deflect Dike’s shot into the net. Dike’s desire to get onto a loose ball in the penalty area following an insufficient clearance from the visitors is what made the goal.

“I honestly think it might not have been our day,” Dike said. “On another day, we put five of those in the back of the net. Maybe I put more in. Maybe Chris (Mueller), maybe Benji, maybe Mauricio (Pereyra), all of us (maybe) we put them in the back of the net. Today just wasn’t our day, but I think next time that’s obviously something we’re going to have to work on for the next game with that in the back of our heads.”

Dike may be five games into his professional career, but he has a knack for showing up at the right place at the right time. The former University of Virginia product did it to score his first against Inter Miami last month and again in his brace during a 3-1 win over Nashville on Aug. 26.

Dike has three goals and three assists in 353 MLS minutes. He has started every game for Orlando City since the Lions returned to the MLS is Back tournament final.

The question is whether this is a purple patch from the 20-year-old or a harbinger of things to come.

Steve Zakuani scored 20 goals in 120 professional appearances with the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft is impressed with Dike.

“He plays with a maturity many young players need several years to develop,” Zakuani wrote on “What I mean by maturity is decision making — when to lay the ball off one touch and when to hold it and wait for support.

“Even when he has his back to goal, Dike doesn’t necessarily settle for playing the simple backward pass. Instead, against Atlanta there were several times when he was able to play a forward pass into space for a surging teammate. That takes vision, awareness, and of course, maturity.”

Dike’s performances mean Orlando City may finally have an answer at center forward. Since Cyle Larin left the club for Turkish power Beşiktaş following the 2017 season, the Lions have struggled to score goals.

Orlando City scored the second-fewest goals in MLS during the 2018 season and were 20th in goals scored in 2019 with 44 goals in 34 games. 

Nani led the team with 12 goals last year and has been the team’s talisman this season. But, a thirtysomething winger cannot win games alone. Thus far, the Portuguese has not.

Orlando (4-2-4, 16 points) is fourth in the Eastern Conference standings largely because the club has scored the most goals in the conference. Orlando has scored 17 goals in 10 league matches. The Lions will complete the first phase of the post-MLS is Back schedule on Wednesday against Inter Miami.

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