Orlando City’s run to the playoffs helped 10 players and coach Oscar Pareja earn nominations for MLS end of season awards.
Pareja was nominated for coach of the year honors in his first season leading Orlando City and he’s widely projected to win the accolade. MLS analysts labeled Pareja a clear lock for the award at the midseason mark. During his first season, Pareja led the Lions to the MLS is Back Tournament final and the first playoff berth in franchise history.
Orlando City’s Daryl Dike was nominated for rookie of the year honors. Since his debut against Inter Miami, Dike showed off his goal-scoring skills and became an award contender.
During his first 14 games, Dike scored five goals and added three assists as a 20-year-old rookie.
But changes to the award have amped up the competition for Dike. MLS announced Tuesday the rookie of the year award will be replaced this year with young player of the year, which will be awarded to the top player under the age of 22.
As a result, Dike will not just be competing against fellow college graduates and other players making their professional debuts. Instead, his competition will include LAFC star Diego Rossi, Toronto standout Ayo Akinola and Philadelphia’s Brenden Aaronson, who recently set an MLS record for highest transfer fee for an MLS homegrown player. Aaronson is slated to leave the league at the end of this season.
Dike’s performance has been strong for a true rookie, but it’s unlikely he’ll be able to edge the goal-scoring of players such as Akinola (8) and Rossi (14).
Dike will be eligible for the award during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, giving him more opportunities to earn it.
Regardless of the end-of-season accolades, Pareja has been pleased with Dike’s performance this season. He never planned on the rookie playing this many minutes during his first MLS season
The Lions previously planned on easing Dike into the lineup behind Dom Dwyer and Tesho Akindele. When both players suffered injuries — and striker Matheus Aiás' arrival was delayed — Dike was unexpectedly asked to become the team’s starter.
Pareja said Dike’s grown through the extended playing time.
“What I can see is progression," Pareja said. "He is all the time asking for more. The minutes and the games are going to get give him that accommodation in the box in the right moments and hopefully more on continuity on the scoreboard and scoring goals more frequently.”
Here’s a look at Orlando City players nominated for end-of-year MLS awards:
Landon Donovan MLS MVP
Young Player of the Year
Goalkeeper of the Year
Defender of the Year
Newcomer of the Year
MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year
Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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