The notorious drug dealer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of a firearm and ammunition. As he had no prior criminal convictions, the judge opted not to sentence him under Florida’s three-strikes law. He is now due back on October 16th 2018 after serving his time behind bars.

Daryl Dike's wild ride

Daryl Dike had a moment in December when he had a chance to ponder for the first time in two years. He had gotten one after two years of relentless soccer.

From scoring for Virginia in the NCAA finals against Georgetown in December 2019, to going fifth in the MLS SuperDraft in January 2020, to scoring eight times in 22 games for Orlando City, to making his national team debut, to a surprise loan move to Barnsley, to scoring nine times for the Tykes as they came close to earning promotion to the Premier League for only the second time in club history, to scoring his first goal for the United States national team in June 2021, to suffering a shin injury, to scoring his first

“Physically, it was essential,” he said, “but psychologically, being able to look back on travelling over to England, being with the national team, playing in the Gold Cup, and also playing with Orlando, it was a good era, for sure.”

Dike’s offseason, even by soccer’s standards, was quick. West Bromwich Albion of England’s second division bought Dike from Orlando City for $11 million on January 1, the opening day of Europe’s winter transfer window.

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With Dike heading to England and Ricardo Pepi joining FC Augsburg in the German Bundesliga, the two most promising young forwards in the American player pool are tackling European difficulties at the same time, with the 2022 World Cup only 10 months away. And, in Dike’s case, his goals have only gotten greater with each level of achievement.

“I always had great aspirations when I first started,” he added. “I always wanted to play in the Champions League and World Cups, and they are still my objectives.” But I believe those objectives are now much more attainable, and I may be able to achieve them even sooner.

“After witnessing how rapidly I’ve improved in only two years, I believe I can achieve all of my objectives much sooner than I imagined.”

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A top-notch scorer

Given how fast he became a star in the most vital area for a center-forward to stand out: scoring goals, it’s hard to blame Dike for dreaming high.

Dike’s nine goals during his half-season Championship spell (21 games) put him in the top 25 in the league and tied him for the most among players aged 20 and under. And, despite missing a significant portion of the 2021 MLS season, Dike was fourth in goals per 90 minutes (0.70) among players with at least 1,400 minutes, behind only DC United’s Ola Kamara (0.94), LAFC’s Cristian Arango (0.90), and the LA Galaxy’s Chicharito Hernandez (0.88). Dike, who scored two less goals in 682 fewer minutes than Pepi, is at least five years older than the others.

Dike took a struggle to regain his peak form after suffering injuries in August, but he scored five non-penalty goals in his final ten games for Orlando. His ability to carve out space in the box and put shots away impressed Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael, and that was the main reason the club sought him up. Ismael is now at West Brom.

Ismael informed local reporters after Dike’s signing, “Dike has everything we need from the No. 9 position.” “He’s full of energy and power, and he’s not afraid to take on defenders. He also scores goals. I worked with him at Barnsley and am well familiar with him. He’s got the mindset.”

He also has the physicality, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 220 pounds.

“Rather predictably, his power and physique are the first things that attract your attention,” ESPN commentator and professional scout Tor-Kristian Karlsen stated. “In certain areas, he’s really severe.” Having those qualities in a forward — he can be a one-man assault at times — gives you some apparent advantages: Opponents would not want to put him in a one-on-one situation with their center-backs.

“He isn’t simply a sportsman, however. In terms of where he picks up the ball, I believe he’s doing nicely, and his spatial awareness in and around the penalty area is also growing.”

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The topic of shot ease is fascinating. Dike outperformed his anticipated goals (xG) in each of his MLS and English Championship seasons. He created between 4.4 and 4.7 xG at each stage, but converted it into eight or nine goals. In his future, there will almost probably be some regression to the mean: Since the start of 2021, he has outperformed his xG stats by 47 percent, which is the second best among all players with 20 or more goals in all competitions. (The best score was 71 percent by Leandro Damiao of Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale.)

Even if he proves to be one of the finest finishers in the game, that ratio will almost certainly drop to the plus-30 percent area in the near future. He will, however, continue to prosper if he compensates this with a larger shot volume.

A larger shot volume, on the other hand, will need more touches and participation in the entire game.

The remainder of his unfinished game

Whether or whether he may regress in the future, Dike’s scoring ability is exceptional for such a young player. According to the scouting reports at FBref.com (generated by StatsBomb), these are some of his percentile ratings over the last 365 days — compared to other forwards:

  • Goals per 90 minutes: 89th percentile

  • Non-penalty goals per 90: 75th percentile

  • Goals per shot: 94th percentile

  • Goals per shot on target: 96th percentile

  • Average shot distance: 92nd percentile

  • xG per 90: 68th percentile

Even though his finishing is still a touch shaky, his talent is undeniable. He generates chances from close range and puts the ball in the back of the goal.

Everything else, on the other hand, is still a work in progress:

  • Touches per 90: third percentile

  • Shot-creating actions* per 90: 15th percentile

  • Passes attempted per 90: second percentile

  • Passes completed per 90: third percentile

  • Pass completion rate: 53rd percentile

  • Passes received per 90: fifth percentile

  • Assists per 90: 31st percentile

  • Progressive carries per 90: 19th percentile

  • Pressures per 90: 32nd percentile

  • Successful pressures per 90: 16th percentile

  • Pressures per 90 in the attacking third: 62nd percentile

Shot-creating activities are defined by StatsBomb as “the two offensive acts that directly lead to a shot, such as passes, dribbles, and drawing fouls.”

“Perhaps the most important thing for him to work on is making a consistent impact on the game,” Karlsen added. “He comes and goes from the action, and he may be impatient at times — as in, always wanting to make the first, straight run and complete the assaults, even if the motions around him aren’t quite there yet. In that regard, he may be too forthright in his decision-making at times.”

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“We need someone to come up and score the goals,” Ismael said following West Brom’s 1-1 tie with Cardiff City on Sunday, in which the Baggies mustered just three shots on target from 13 efforts. “This is what we are now lacking. This is why we signed Daryl Dike: to improve our chances of scoring goals and winning games.”

West Brom, like Ismael’s Barnsley previous season, plays a more vertical style. Dike excels in this system, and if he continues to finish opportunities as he has for the previous two years, his acquisition might make a significant impact in the promotion battle.

Dike will also be expected to perform his fair share of pressing under Ismael’s system, and he looks to have learnt from his mistakes the first time. According to Statsbomb, he averaged 13.6 (8.3) pressures per 90 minutes in 2021, up from 10.6 pressures per 90 minutes (5.8 in the attacking third) in 2020. His success rate with pressure decreased, but his increasing activity level was positive.

“One thing I’ve learnt from others is that pushing smarter rather than harder is the way to go,” Dike added. “At the start of my career, I believe I would sometimes simply rush to press, which wasn’t always a good idea.” That’s something I believe I’ve improved on after learning more about systems and listening to my coaches: when to push as a group, when the squad is ready, and other similar things.

“We’re all under continual strain, constant pressure, with the national team and Valerien. We’re going to wear out the other squad.”

Dike made his USMNT debut in January 2021 and hopes to make the World Cup squad if the team qualifies. Getty Images/Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

What this may imply for the United States Men’s National Team

In January 2021, Dike made his national team debut, soon before his Barnsley loan was announced. By the summer, he seemed to be a lock for a starting spot in World Cup qualifying. He scored once in a 4-0 friendly victory over Costa Rica in June and twice against Martinique in the Gold Cup in July. However, his injury restricted his performance in the Gold Cup; after trying four shots against Martinique, he only managed five in his following three outings, all from further distances (by his norms).

He has yet to play for the U.S. since. Berhalter did not bring him in for any of the three qualification windows this fall and passed him over for December’s MLS-heavy friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina. The coach explained the latter decision by saying, “He’s beat up. He needs recovery. The most important thing at this time for Daryl is to get rest and recovery that he can focus on coming back in January and building himself up again.” But during qualification, Berhalter made a point to emphasize the word “verticality.”

In September, Berhalter told CBS Sports, “We want greater verticality.” “We’re looking for guys who can stretch the opponent’s back line and run underneath it.”

Given Dike’s success under Ismael’s system, it was puzzling that he didn’t bring him in. Regardless, the US still has two World Cup qualifying windows left: El Salvador and Honduras at home and at Canada from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, and Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as a home match against Panama in late March.

“I believe [Berhalter] appreciates me, and I think that’s something you always want as a coach,” Dike said of Berhalter’s goals. “You want a coach who believes in you and respects your abilities. I believe he assesses who I am and the qualities I possess before attempting to push me. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

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