Dom Dwyer came home this summer in an MLS-record deal. The former Sporting Kansas City striker was brought to Orlando City on July 25 in exchange for $400,000 in General Allocation Money, $500,000 in Targeted Allocation Money, and up to another $700,000 in future allocation money that was incentive-based.
It felt good to get Dom back in Orlando — complete with an emotional airport welcome — and you’d be hard pressed to find many Lions fans who weren’t thrilled with the club’s work to get him during the summer transfer window.
Dwyer took a bit longer than anticipated to get acclimated to his new (and old) team. There was an All-Star Game detour just days after his first start for Orlando City. He sustained a nasal injury that required surgery, forcing him to miss the game at New York on Aug. 12 — and a bunch of training sessions. In all, he trained with Orlando City only a few days over his first month with the club. So a settling-in period should have been expected.
Dom suited up as an MLS Lion for the first time on July 29 at Atlanta United. In all, he played in 12 games with Orlando City in 2017, starting 11 of those, coming off the bench for the final 27 minutes on Aug. 19 vs. Columbus, and missing one match with the injury. In those 12 matches, Dwyer scored four goals and added four assists — an assist total that alone is a career high for a season since he joined MLS, but he also got one during his 15 matches with SKC before the trade. His four assists with City rank behind only the five that Kaká and Carlos Rivas tallied, but they did it in 30 games and 23, respectively, compared to Dom’s 12.
The first goal he figured in was an assist on Cyle Larin’s opening strike in a 2-1 win at D.C. United on Sept. 9 — his sixth game with the Lions and his fifth start. It was just the tip of the iceberg. Over the following six games to close out the season, Dwyer scored four goals and added three more assists, going the distance in all of those games.
The 27-year-old averaged 2.4 shots per game with Orlando City, second only to Rivas (2.5) and you can bet a lot fewer of Dom’s cleared the Heineken sign at Orlando City Stadium. His 1.2 key passes per game place him third on the team behind Yoshimar Yotun (3.5) and Kaká (1.4) — Matias Perez Garcia averaged 1.9 before his mid-season departure. He also earned quite a few free kicks, drawing an average of 2.3 fouls per match — barely behind Cristian Higuita and MPG, who each averaged 2.4 fouls drawn. However, he will need to improve on his 61.3 percent passing rate, which could be due in part to learning his new teammates.
It didn’t come in a win but it was nearly as good. Dwyer scored his first two goals as an Orlando City player in MLS at Atlanta United in a 3-3 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 16. He also assisted on a Larin goal that day to help the Lions become not only the first visiting team to score at MBS, but also the first visiting team to come away with any points. He took only two of Orlando City’s nine shots that day but both went in. Here’s the first of Dwyer’s two that day:
That was one powerful header.
Final 2017 Grade
The Mane Land staff came to a consensus 6.5 for Dwyer. That score would likely be higher had it not taken about half a dozen games to fully settle in with his new teammates, but that transition period was lengthened by his All-Star Game participation — during which he scored — and a nasal injury that required surgery, forcing him to miss some valuable training sessions and about a game and two-thirds. If he can put in a full season like he did the final six games of 2017, Orlando City will be sure to get more production from him in 2018 and his TML score will rise significantly next year.
There is one year left on Dwyer’s contract, so he’s locked up for the 2018 season. But Orlando City GM Niki Budalic is on record as saying he wants to wrap up a new deal for Dom soon. As much as it cost to get Dwyer to Orlando, the club will want to protect that investment in the U.S. international and it’s likely he’ll go well into Designated Player territory with his next contract.
If he can provide offense at the torrid pace with which he ended the season, that DP tag and the monetary investment will be well worth it and there will be a lot of singing at Orlando City Stadium about Dom Dwyer scoring when he wants.