Feb 21, 2015; Charleston, SC, USA; New York City FC David Villa F (7) chases the ball as Orlando City SC defender Rafael Ramos (27) chases at Blackbaud Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Just a couple of months after announcing a strategic partnership with Portugal club SL Benfica came the first big move between the two clubs. With the deadline for incoming transfers approaching, Orlando City acquired a pair of youth players, Rafael Ramos and Estrela, from Benfica on contracts for the Lions’ MLS debut in 2015.
Both players figured to compete for starting spot in Orlando City’s lineup this season, but I couldn’t see either making an immediate impact — especially Ramos, who came in facing a tough competition at right back.
Ramos, though, scored in his debut with the club and eventually took over the starting spot from Tyler Turner down the stretch. This encouraging play only continued this preseason season as he puts in good performances each time out, showing off his well of talent and potential.
A preseason battle that started out against Turner and himself is now a one-man competition, with it seeming like Ramos has locked up the starting job with just under two weeks left in camp.
He’s been a perfect fit for Adrian Heath in his 4-2-3-1 system, which heavily favors the wing-backs being able to get forward and attack. With Brek Shea doing his thing on the left, Ramos’ attack down the right also brings problems upon defenses. When he, and Shea, are able to get forward they find themselves in situations where they can go 1-on-1 with defenders as they try to get down the field to find someone else in the box, or they’ll end up drawing more than one defender on them, which in turn opens up more space in the midfield for Kaka and others to work.
You needs to have players capable of contributing in that role, and Ramos — Shea and even Luke Boden are very good at it too — has shown his special talent for helping on the attack. And that hasn’t limited him on defense, either, using his speed to both get forward, and also get back to cover ground when needed.
If there’s one noticeable negative to point out with Ramos it’s that his feisty play can get him into too much foul trouble. We saw that come into play on Saturday. His third foul of the game wasn’t all that hard, but it was enough for the ref to get in and issue a hello, basically letting him know that enough was enough.
Other than that, Ramos has been one of the biggest standouts to me all throughout the preseason. I have a tough time seeing him not starting on March 8, and being the No. 1 throughout the season.
(It should also be noted that he’ll likely miss a few weeks because of the U-20 World Cup with Portugal this summer.)
A 19-year-old fighting for playing time today, Rafael Ramos could be a star of tomorrow for Orlando City.