Welcome to this edition of the Upgrade, a new series tracking MLS players in EA SPORTS FIFA 17. You can check out the previous installment here. This week, we’re focusing on a marquee match-up featuring young talents on the cusp of stardom.
There’s a big match coming up, after all. On Saturday, Orlando City SC welcome the LA Galaxy to their beautiful, brand new stadium for a showdown with important early-season implications for both sides (2:30 pm ET, FOX and Fox Deportes in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada).
So how would we play this match on FIFA 17? With a bunch of young players, mostly. Let's break it down according to their player ratings.
Clement Diop; photo via USA Today Sports Images
The Galaxy have won two of their last three matches, and finally look like they’ve started to establish an identity. EA seems to think Clement Diop and Nathan Smith are a big part of that identity, because they both got big upgrades this week.
Diop’s overall rating jumped eight points this week, bringing him up to a 65. That’s a huge boost for a young goalkeeper with just a handful of first-team appearances under his belt, but the lad has played well. Double-digit growth in his handling, diving, and kicking attributes mean he’s markedly better in just about every area a goalkeeper needs to be good.
The 22-year old doesn’t look like slowing down. For what it’s worth, this upgrade brings him within one overall point of Brian Rowe, who actually got downgraded this week. So if you like playing with the Galaxy in FIFA 17, you’re honestly better off starting Diop and just letting him grow through experience.
Believe it or not, Smith got an even bigger upgrade. His overall rating jumped a whopping 10 points in one week, bringing the 21-year-old up to a respectable 60. EA must have hugely underrated Smith’s ball skills initially, because he ended up with a 34-point dribbling attribute bump, 30-point increases in short and long passing, a 21-point curve upgrade, and 20-point crossing and ball control boosts. Some handsome mentality upgrades were thrown in as well. What a deal!
This is a big-time upgrade for Smith that gives him a strong baseline upon which to improve as the season goes on. We probably won’t see another 10 points of growth by the end of this campaign, but if he performs well consistently, he could certainly find his way up into the mid-60s.
I don’t want to fan the hype train too much, because both of these players are still pretty green. But if these two can help the LA Galaxy snap Orlando's three-match home win streak, you'd better watch out, because that is a statement and a half.
Luis Gil; photo courtesy of Orlando City
The newest addition to the team's attacking stable, however, is just making his return to MLS after spending a year in Liga MX with Queretaro – Luis Gil. He’s a natural attacking central midfielder, and he’ll have every chance to prove he can contribute under head coach Jason Kreis, who mentored him during the pair’s Real Salt Lake days.
Gil has always been extremely talented, and a productive 2013 season earned him two caps with the USMNT in January of 2014. He has fallen down the pecking order since then, but he comes to Orlando with a desire to prove himself after making just 10 appearances during his time with Queretaro.
In order to make an impact, he’ll have to prove he has what it takes to make his presence felt. Of course, he wasn’t able to do that in the six-minute cameo appearance he made against the New York Red Bulls last week, but he’ll have another shot on Saturday.
If he can come in and step up his game in a central role the way Carlos Rivas has done in a wide role, he might be due for an upgrade sooner rather than later. With an in-form striker like Cyle Larin to play underneath and a huge stage to prove himself on, could the young No. 10 ask for a better opportunity to take the reins this weekend? Nah.