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2017 Orlando City Season in Review: Earl Edwards Jr.

A great year in the USL led to his first ever MLS appearance in his third season in Orlando.

MLS: New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Earl Edwards Jr. had just about everything he could’ve asked for in his third campaign for the Lions. With Joe Bendik firmly placed in the No. 1 shirt for the MLS side, Edwards Jr. got what every young goalkeeper needs: playing time. Spending most of the year as the top goalkeeper for Orlando City B in the USL, the Landlord — as he’s now known — had a banner year for the young Lions.

All of this was capped off with his eventual promotion to MLS backup and a start in the last game of the season. While he didn't get as much playing time as I’m sure he would have wanted in the last month of the season, he still had a very successful third year.

Statistical Breakdown

Earl had 23 starts with Orlando City’s USL club and the only reason he didn't start every match was due to his mid-season call to MLS. In his time in the USL, he had nine clean sheets to go along with his 75.5% save percentage. Considering he missed the last nine games of the season, it is impressive that Earl was still ranked among the league’s best statistically. He tied for seventh in shutouts (nine), was eighth in saves (80), and finished with a 1.13 goals-against average.

He earned the USL’s Player of the Month in August with a blistering 85% save percentage and three shutouts. All of this earned him Second Team All-USL honors for his outstanding play in 2017.

In MLS, Earl only had one match so his stats are very straightforward with one save and six goals allowed. I’ll go into this more below but this one game is in no way an indication of Earl’s ability.

Best Game

Playing in only one MLS match, this is decision was made for us. In the Lions’ final game of the season, Earl earned his first MLS start on the road against the Philadelphia Union. Unfortunately, the game was a rough one that ended 6-1, but to be fair to Edwards it also featured a number of Lions that didn't traditionally start against C.J. Sapong and many of the Union’s top players.

In his first start, you could see the nerves with a few of the goals that I believe he would save when he gets more comfortable. But overall it was a tough day for a team that was simply outmatched and often left wide open Philadelphia players in the penalty area for easy goals.

On his one save, Edwards did have a fantastic one-on-one stop with his feet to avoid 7-1 after Antonio Nocerino gave the ball away in the defensive third. So the promise is definitely there.

Final 2017 Grade

With only one MLS start, Edwards gets a grade of incomplete for the season as he didn't get enough time with the first team. But be sure that if we were grading his season as a whole it would have been very high.

2018 Outlook

I said in the Bendik review that the battle for goalkeeper next season is a must-watch and it’s because of Edwards. He has the opportunity to supplant Bendik with a great off-season and preseason. At worst, he’s the Lions backup goalkeeper. At best, he’s leading the Lions. We’ll have to wait and see.

If there was an area of improvement for Earl, I would say it would be his distribution. He’s better than Bendik in this area, but could still focus on it as goalkeepers are becoming more and more involved in the run of play. He averaged 64% accuracy on his passes. Considering a goalkeeper has to clear the ball and send it long quite a bit, you have to give some breathing room with this stat. But overall you'd like to see this more around the 75% and above area.

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