Expect Growing Pains for César Araújo

Mar 5, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Fabian Herbers (21) fouls Orlando City
Mar 5, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Fire midfielder Fabian Herbers (21) fouls Orlando City / Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

No Orlando City player impressed more over the first two weeks of the season than 20-year-old Uruguayan midfielder César Araújo. The defensive midfielder started each match and put in excellent shifts against a pair of elite opponents in Montreal's Djordje Mihailovic and Chicago's Xherdan Shaqiri. Araújo even started drawing attention from national media types for his quality.

Against FC Cincinnati, we were reminded that for as good as César Araújo is already, he's still far from a finished product. It'd be harsh to say he had a bad game, but he struggled more than he did the first two matches. Cincinnati's talisman Luciano Acosta had a much more productive day than either Mihailovic or Shaqiri, finishing with an assist and looking dangerous throughout.

It's unfair to expect Araújo to lock up every No. 10 in MLS or to dominate every game he plays in, and Saturday was the first time we've really seen him struggle. Acosta gave him fits and Araújo wasn't able to clean up Cincinnati's transition opportunities.

This relatively poor performance isn't enough to merit a benching, however. The standard is high, especially with Sebas Mendez waiting on the bench, but Araújo has shown more than enough to continue starting games. The upcoming game against the Los Angeles Galaxy will be another huge test for Araújo, facing the likes of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Douglas Costa and an experienced defensive midfield partnership, but the only way for the young Uruguayan to continue developing is to play in these difficult spots.

When a club invests in a young player, especially when that player is expected to play a key role immediately, growing pains are an expected part of the process. No young player steps into the starting lineup anywhere in the world and is immediately perfect. I have no doubt that we'll see performances even worse than Saturday from Araújo, but for a player with his upside, it's worth every minute.