Luke Boden Sets the Standard For Orlando CityThe Lions' defender looks to stake a long term claim at leftback
by Chris Kimball | Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Two games into the new campaign and Orlando City's scoresheet has been surprisingly empty. The Lions' offense has mustered just 2 goals in a pair of 1-1 draws, first against Charleston, and this past weekend against Pittsburgh in the home opener.
Two goals and 2 draws have left the Lions' faithful feeling unfulfilled. Orlando City supporters have grown accustomed to fireworks. Their club, after all, put 4 on the board during the Pro Soccer Classic against Red Bull New York, the defending MLS Supporters’ Shield winners.
But one bright spot of the early season has been the play of Sheffield, England native, Luke Boden. Orlando's fourth-year fullback has been a force on the left side, dictating play, delivering pinpoint crosses into the box and even scoring goals.
He's been the most dominant player on the field for Orlando, but his early success calls attention to a steady progression over the last few years, which may now be reaching its maturity.
Boden's path to Orlando City began as a midfield prospect in the academy system of Sheffield Wednesday of the English Championship. From 2006 he made 15 appearances for his hometown club. Then, in 2008, he was sent on loan to Chesterfield of League Two, and later, to Rushden & Diamonds. 2009 saw Boden sent to his third loan destination, Northampton, where he made just four appearances. After that season he and Sheffield called it quits.
A year later Boden arrived at Orlando City, just as the club was planting roots in the Sunshine State. Coming from England, the birthplace of the sport, to a newly formed team in Florida, one might expect the Brit to have a haughty view of the American game. But in fact Boden has been impressed.
"I think the [soccer] culture over here is great, and I'm not just saying that," Boden said. "People have come and trained with us from England and after the training session they say 'I wasn't expecting that!' They're surprised at the standard."
These days it's Boden who sets the "standard." For City's opener against the Battery, Boden harassed the opposition's left flank for 90 minutes, creating numerous scoring chances for his club including their only goal. Charleston couldn't solve Boden's persistent overlapping runs and passing finesse. For his efforts the defender was awarded USL PRO Team of the Week honors.
During Saturday's home opener against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Boden provided more of the same and then took it to the next level, scoring City's lone goal via a precisely placed left-footed volley late in the 2nd half. The score cemented Orlando's second come-from-behind draw in as many games.
In his short career Luke Boden has already played in 3 professional leagues. The prowess he has displayed so far this season leaves little doubt that the Englishman has yet another league in his sights: Major League Soccer. Boden is currently signed to a one-year USL PRO contract, and like most of his teammates he has one season to prove his value to the club or risk being ejected during what figures to be a significant rebuilding next offseason.
When asked about the long view of reaching this country's highest league, Boden doesn't give it much stock.
"We're concentrating on this year," he insists. "We want to win the league and we want to win the championship. And then what happens next year happens next year."
Nevertheless, Boden knows that reaching MLS would be a significant achievement.
"If you watch an MLS game you can see the standard," he posits. "The standard is way up there." And then he adds so that there's no mistake, "way up there."
If Luke Boden continues his current rate of development then he will undoubtedly meet that lofty standard. OCSC coach Adrian Heath recently called his compatriot "the best leftback outside of MLS."
He may not be "outside" much longer.
NEXT UP: April 5 - Orlando City vs. Rochester Rhinos, ESPN's Wide World of Sports, Kissimmee, FL. 7:30pm EST. YouTube live stream.