While many Orlando City fans may be disappointed that Dom Dwyer will not be returning to the City Beautiful, they should remember there is already a star in town.
In 2013, the partnership between Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City and USL Pro club Orlando City resulted in SKC loaning four players to the Lions. One of those four players was SKC’s 2012 first-round draft pick Dom Dwyer. In his half season loan in Orlando, Dwyer scored 15 goals in just 13 games. He returned later that year for the USL Pro Championship game, scoring four goals and leading the club to its second championship in three years. He remains a very popular figure around the club.
With Orlando City approaching its MLS debut, many purple-clad fans have been clamoring for a return of Dwyer to Central Florida. However, those hopes were seemingly dashed on Saturday night, when SKC CEO Robb Heineman tweeted that the club was close to an agreement that will keep the striker in Kansas City for at least the next three years. While many Orlando City fans were disappointed by the news, this development should awaken some supporters of the Lions to the fact that there’s been a somewhat underappreciated star here all along.
In 2011, Orlando City Soccer Club began play as an expansion club in USL Pro. The owners of the club came in with the lofty goal of entering MLS in three to five years. This ambitious group planned on achieving this goal by building a strong local fan base and winning. In its inaugural season, Orlando City built a team that would go on to win the USL Pro regular season title and the USL Pro Championship, and send several players to MLS.
While three players on that team -- Yordany Alvarez, Lawrence Olum, and Lewis Neal -- would move on to MLS after just one season, the Lions had two players on that team that would become key parts of the club’s future success. One of those players was a 20-year-old kid from Trinidad and Tobago named Kevin Molino.
In just four short years, Molino rose from relative obscurity to a much sought after player. After the 2012 season he was given trials at Dutch power PSV Eindhoven and Belgium club Zulte Waregem, and multiple MLS clubs inquired about the young midfielder. Following another strong season in 2013, the star was offered an MLS contract by 2014 Supporters Shield winners Seattle Sounders FC. Luckily for Orlando City, Molino decided to turn down the offer, play one more season of USL Pro, and enter MLS with the club that brought him to the United States.
When Orlando City takes the field in March for its first MLS game, there will be a 24-year-old to the right of Kaká that is deep within the DNA of Orlando City SC. He was there when many questioned whether professional soccer could work in central Florida. He experienced the achievement of two trophies in the club’s first year, the disappointment of the NYCFC announcement, and the exhilaration when Orlando City was selected for MLS expansion. Dwyer will always be remembered for that incredible half season in 2013 but he will never have the impact, and shouldn’t have the affection, that Molino deserves from Orlando City fans.
Dwyer has become a star in MLS for Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City fans can take joy in the fact that their club helped develop him, but Kevin Molino is going to become a star in the league as well. However, unlike with the former, Molino has been with the club since its first competitive game. He was intimately involved with the growth of the club and its entrance into MLS.
So, while Dwyer will continue to be popular among the Orlando City faithful for those few months, don’t let that dim the light on the star that has shone brightly for four years and will continue to burn in the years to come.