Don’t get me wrong, the 2017 season as a whole was a disappointing one for Orlando City SC, as the team failed to make it to the MLS playoffs for the third straight season. However, as in our daily lives, even the bad years can have some moments of joy, which give us hope that better days are yet to come.
That was the case with Orlando, as the club built some blocks that will hopefully help the team in the near future. As we enjoy Thanksgiving, here are three reasons to be thankful for in 2017.
The New Stadium
The inauguration of Orlando City Stadium was undoubtedly the highlight of the Lions in 2017. The new home of the club is a state-of-the-art facility and was highly praised not only by MLS players but also by the United States Men’s National Team players when the U.S. hosted a World Cup Qualifier in October.
The new venue has dragged over 425,000 fans to Orlando’s 17 MLS home matches, with an average that is good enough for fourth best in the league. Having its own stadium and an amazing atmosphere are very important assets to a team and Orlando could not be in a better position in that regard.
The return of Dom Dwyer to Orlando City was something the fans have been waiting for for a while. And the team spared no resources to bring the forward back in June, sending a record fee of $1.6 million in combined allocation money to Sporting Kansas City.
Dwyer struggled with a facial injury and only had time to play 12 matches for Orlando but his numbers in these games were promising. The 27-year-old striker scored four goals and recorded four assists, leading the team in this category. What Dwyer could do in 2018, with an entire preseason to adjust to the team goes beyond imagination.
Orlando City’s defense was in the bottom half of the league, but that had little to do with Jonathan Spector. The veteran center back was signed to help to fix the team’s defensive issues and he did a decent job, leading the Lions in interceptions (2.1) and clearances (5.5) per game.
Spector is arguably the best center back Orlando City has ever had on its MLS roster and he is a solid foundation to the team’s defensive system. In 2018, better adjusted to a league where he had never played before, odds are his performance will be even better.