Whatever happened to… former Orlando City SC man Bryan Róchez?

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It’s been a long while since we ran one of these features but we thought we’d serve you another helping of our ‘Whatever Happened To?’ blogs.

Last questioning the whereabouts of ex-Lions striker Adam Bedell, today we’re providing an update on former Orlando City SC Designated Player Bryan Róchez.

Remember him?

First impressions

Like many new arrivals to Major League Soccer, it’s fair to say Bryan Róchez was a fairly unknown quantity when signing for Orlando City SC in December 2014.

Nevertheless, the eye-catching factor surrounding the then 19-year-old was the fact he was brought to Central Florida as a Designated Player.

Becoming one of Major League Soccer’s youngest ever DP’s no less, City supporters were right to feel excited after watching his YouTube clips and checking his stats.

After all, the Honduras international striker enjoyed an impressive goalscoring record at his first professional club Real España.

Scoring 20 goals for the Honduran side, this form was all the more impressive considering his age.

Upon signing for the Lions, Adrian Heath said: “We’re extremely delighted that Bryan is joining us for the 2015 season.

“He’s a player that we’ve had our eyes on for quite some time now, as we believe that he has the ability to contribute to the team straight away.”

Bryan Róchez was deemed such a significant signing that he warranted his own billboard in the Central Florida area too.

Bryan Róchez Billboard In Central Florida

(Credit: @BGRochez35)

The perennial impact sub

And Heath was right, Bryan Róchez was a player who was involved in his first team plans right away.

Sadly for the striker however, he was firmly cast in the role of the perennial impact sub.

Involved in 23 of Orlando City SC‘s 34 matchday squads in MLS during 2015, Bryan Róchez didn’t start a single league fixture.

However, he did start the mid-season friendly against English opposition West Bromwich Albion – a game in which the Lions won 3-1 thanks to an 87th minute goal from Bryan Róchez.

In many ways, Bryan Róchez was a victim of Cyle Larin‘s outstanding rookie season in Major League Soccer with the Honduran limited to 16 appearances from the substitutes’ bench.

While some players have lived up to the super sub billing in years gone by like Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Manchester United, Bryan Róchez couldn’t really make it work.

Nevertheless, he did manage to find the back of the net three times for Adrian Heath‘s Lions.

Interestingly enough, all three of Bryan Róchez‘s goals came in consecutive games against Sporting Kansas City (3-1), Chicago Fire (0-1) and New York Red Bulls (2-5) throughout September 2015.

Chicago Fire 0 Orlando City SC 1 – Highlights – September 19, 2015 (Credit: Chicago Fire)

With Orlando City SC winning all three of those games, Róchez seemed to be building up a head of steam just at the moment where he became a stranger.

That said, Bryan Róchez‘s struggles were further complicated by the fact he was often injured while experiencing passport issues too.

The beginning of the end

Suffering a pre-season injury prior to the 2016 season, Bryan Róchez could no longer be relied upon to contribute to a team desperately wanting to make the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Nevertheless, 2016 marked the inaugural season of Orlando City B, a USL team under the Orlando City SC umbrella who could hand crucial game time to Bryan Róchez in a less demanding environment.

Loaned to OCB in March 2016, Róchez ended up earning 440 minutes of action under Anthony Pulis in 10 appearances, scoring twice in that spell.

While many thought Orlando City B would help build Bryan Róchez back up into the exciting player we brought from Central America, it didn’t work out that way.

With Cyle Larin still scoring plenty of goals in 2016 and experiencing no sophomore slump whatsoever, it would’ve been near on impossible for Bryan Róchez to dislodge the Canadian from the team even if fit.

Róchez became somewhat a figure of ridicule given the fact Orlando City SC still owned him as a Designated Player despite turning out in USL rather than Major League Soccer.

It wasn’t long before many Lions fans were pointing towards this as a complete waste of a DP slot – a theme explored by Orlando City UK in a feature we ran back in May 2016.

Home comforts

Bryan Róchez‘s struggles in Central Florida were temporarily abandoned when Orlando City SC loaned him back home to former club Real España in July 2016.

Effectively cutting short his loan with Orlando City B, Róchez was a player performing back in the home comforts of the team that gave him his senior debut.

Appearing 15 times on loan there, Róchez scored six goals, further underlining greater confidence and happiness in a familiar environment.

Rival pastures

From here, Bryan Róchez was cast in the role of the forgotten man around Orlando City SC with Jason Kreis confirming that the striker would not be a part of his plans in 2017.

Already a couple of weeks into the 2017 Major League Soccer season, Róchez was claimed off waivers by 2017 expansion side and would-be rivals Atlanta United back on March 18th.

Joining Harrison Heath and Mikey Ambrose at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Bryan Róchez joined a strikeforce with no shortage of competition.

With Josef Martínez, Kenwyne Jones, Héctor Villalba, Yamil Asad and youngster Brandon Vazquez all on Gerardo Martino’s roster, Róchez would struggle once more.

Despite being an Atlanta United player for around five months, Bryan Róchez failed to make a single appearance for The Five Stripes.

His American dream was turning into a real nightmare.

A crack at Europe

Only this week, Bryan Róchez‘s career has now taken a completely different twist altogether.

After failing to make the grade in Georgia, Róchez now embarks on his first crack at Europe having signed for Portuguese second division side C.D. Nacional on Tuesday.

Madeira’s biggest club were relegated from the Primeira Liga for the first time in 15 seasons last term and it’ll be intriguing to see if Bryan Róchez fares any better on the other side of the Atlantic.

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