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How Does Dom Dwyer Affect Orlando City’s Starting XI?

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Someone will have to make room for the American international.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Sporting KC Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He’s finally back in purple and gold. Orlando City made it official Tuesday afternoon, welcoming home one of the most prolific scorers in club (and recent MLS) history in Dom Dwyer. Dwyer is bringing 58 MLS goals since 2013 with him — not even including the 19 he poured in during his USL season with the Lions — and a scoring touch that City hasn’t seen since he left.

Dom has changed a bit since he last wore a Lions crest, now an American citizen representing — and scoring — for the United States in the group stages of the Gold Cup. Dwyer also returns fully seasoned with four full MLS campaigns under his belt, becoming one of the most consistent scorers in the league. But what does Lions Head Coach Jason Kreis do now that he has a stockpile of forwards?

Dwyer immediately slots into the lineup next to Cyle Larin. Clubs don’t pay $1.6 million in allocation money for depth. Dom’s play style also fits with Kreis’ vision for a second forward. He’s willing to drop deep to collect the ball and is also capable of holding onto it and making runs through the middle of the park. The man has a nose for goal and will make the smart runs in the box to get on the end of crosses. It’s an enormous upgrade at striker to Carlos Rivas, who has struggled to make an impact in the same way. Dom is better on the ball and is capable of striking from distance or poaching loose balls, adding a second scoring threat next to Larin. Orlando has created its fair share of chances this season but has struggled to finish them. Adding Dwyer into the mix should help solve that problem.

The biggest question is what to do with Rivas now. He’s likely lost his spot as a starting striker, which means one of two things: Bench him and make him a speedy super sub or move him wide again. Both options could jump-start Rivas’ productivity, even though he’s had a record-setting year personally. It may be difficult for Kreis to fit Rivas, Kaká, Dwyer, and Larin all on the same field. Rivas made a name for himself on the left in MLS, a position currently occupied by Kaká. Moving Kaká centrally — likely in the diamond — probably means there isn’t any space for Carlos. Moving Rivas wide right, and away from his ability to cross with his favored left foot, is potentially the best option. Anything else sacrifices a good deal of creativity in the side and limits the Lions’ chances.

Being able to bring Rivas off the bench late gives Kreis the ability to add pace and an offensive punch that has been lacking late in games. With the Colombian and Giles Barnes available, Kreis could have his pick of forwards.

The aftershock will reverberate in central midfield as well. Kreis has rolled out with Will Johnson wide right and a combination of Antonio Nocerino and Cristian Higuita in central midfield. Johnson, while serviceable wide, is not as impactful as he is in the center of the park. Since the departure of Matias Perez Garcia late last month, Orlando has been searching for another attacker to slot in.

The casualty may be Nocerino then if Rivas slides back to the wing, but it seems to be those two that will be fighting for a spot on the pitch. Nocerino’s home is at the base of the diamond and not in a pairing in central midfield, where he has struggled to keep up since the Lions switched back to the flatter 4-4-2. Kreis’ variability with formations means there is a possibility that either of these formations could come into play in any given week and the new injection of talent in the forward line adds to the variability in the midfield.

Does Kreis go back to his tried-and-true diamond that puts Kaká back in a central role at the expense of Rivas, or does he keep going with a wide formation with Kaká out wide and Nocerino riding the pine?

What do you think? Let me know how you’d line up the Lions in the comments below.