Orlando City Homegrown right back Michael Halliday started for the Lions Saturday against the New York Red Bulls. Orlando looked to be all in on the 20-year-old after trading four-year starter Ruan in the offseason. And after 90 minutes of Major League Soccer action, Halliday may already be an upgrade.
Ruan had a unique skillset amongst fullbacks. He was exclusively an offensive threat and a bit of a liability on the defensive end. Despite being almost all offense, Ruan struggled at times to really add value in the final third.
The Brazilian's final ball was a constant problem for Orlando. His world-class pace put him in amazing positions on the right flank, but more often than not he'd miss the final ball (and sometimes so poorly the ball went way out of bounds for a turnover).
This is not to try and disparage Ruan. That pace was a real x-factor weapon, and he played over 100 games and had an impressive 12 goals and 16 assists in MLS play. He also was one of the key figures in the squad that finally brought a winning culture to Orlando.
However, Ruan had his worst season yet in 2022, and it was time for the Lions to move on.
This opened the door for Halliday, and the young prospect is showing flashes that he could not only match Ruan, but potentially surpass him very soon.
Halliday is a comparable athlete to Ruan. The Brazilian may have a bit more out and out speed, but the 20-year-old can still get up the field at pace. He's also a lot stronger than the undersized Ruan was.
What really makes Halliday special and a potential difference maker is his skill. He's already at the same level as Ruan on the defensive end, and could feasibly get better with seasoning. His crossing looks much better than the Brazilian's ever did.
It's easy to get eager and overrate a few little moments, but between the preseason game against the New England Revolution and the season opener against New York, Halliday has hit a few really tantalizing crosses.
He floats the ball up into the box much better than Ruan and actually gives players a chance to attack. We've yet to see the exact timing or placement needed to turn the cross into a real chance, but it's abundantly clear that Halliday can hit a much cleaner cross.
A dangerous wide threat on the right flank is essential to how Orlando City wants to attack. Halliday is already showing flashes that he's more than ready to take on that challenge.