Heading into Orlando City’s inaugural MLS season, most of the focus has been on U.S. international Brek Shea and Brazilian superstar Kaká, but it’s been a young right back that’s been turning heads.
Last season Orlando City came to an agreement on a “strategic partnership” with Portuguese first division side SL Benfica. The agreement includes sharing evaluations of players, training opportunities and business strategies. For Orlando City, the agreement also gave the Club the opportunity to sign two of Benfica’s young rising stars, defender Rafael Ramos and midfielder Estrela.
Ramos was a little wary about coming to Orlando City from a top division club in Portugal, saying, “I wasn’t really expecting to come.” But once here, Ramos began to feel at home. “I realized that this is a very good club,” he said “I feel at home here. Now I love being here.”
Having a fellow Benfica product at his side has helped Ramos settle in. “I felt better when I knew Estrela was going to be here. I’ve got my brother here and we’ve been helping each other.”
While U.S. U-20 international Tyler Turner started most of last season for the Lions, Ramos finished the season starting the final four games. Going into this preseason it was toss-up as to who would be the starting right back for the club’s first MLS game. But just two games in, Ramos has looked very comfortable in his transition to MLS.
Ramos’ on-field impact has been very noticeable and, for him, it goes back to last season. Having a few months with the Club prior to entering America’s first division helped the 20-year-old Portuguese U-20 international acclimate to his new environment. “It was just four or five games but to stay four or five months here to get used to the country, the weather, and everybody here, it was a great experience,” he shared.
While the warm Florida sunshine has a calming influence on Ramos, he’s flourished under Adrian Heath’s attacking style – earning rave reviews from around the league. “That’s what I like,” Ramos says about being given the opportunity to push forward. “I just like to go forward. I have to defend, I know, but I love these tactics. I love being forward.”
Ramos’ stellar performance in his second regular season MLS game Friday night in Houston led to him being named to the MLS team of the week. It’s an honor not lost on the young full back who says he’s “very proud for being in the team.” And while it’s a terrific reward for his performance, it’s just the start for the right back. “I want to be in every one (team of the week). I expect it this season. I want to be the best.”
For a player that was unsure about coming to Orlando, Ramos has found a home and is flourishing in his first MLS season. His stellar play has him in the running to compete with Portugal in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. At just 20 years old, it’s only the beginning for one of the bright young stars in MLS.