Orlando City has struggled defensively since joining MLS in 2015. The Lions tried to address their struggling back line multiple times, but tried taking a bigger swing at the problem the last two off-seasons with the addition of Jonathan Spector prior to the 2017 season and the additions of Lamine Sané and Amro Tarek this past off-season. Sané was signed from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen in late February and was expected to make a big difference.
“Lamine will significantly strengthen our back line,” Orlando City GM Niki Budalic said in a club press release. “He brings tremendous experience at the highest levels of European football and we believe he will fit right in with what we’re trying to build in Orlando.”
While the reasoning was sound, the addition didn’t prevent the Lions from breaking the MLS season record for goals allowed. However, Sané was easily a beacon of light, trying to keep the Lions’ ship from smashing against the rocky shore in the darkness of the season. In fact, I think that Sané’s season might surprise people in terms of just how integral he could be in the future for the club.
As for Orlando’s dubious record, it fell due in large part to the multitude of back line combinations coaches were forced to use due to injuries, suspensions, and international duty, which prevented any consistency or chemistry from being achieved.
So, how did Sané perform in his first season with Orlando City?
In a season of back line turmoil, Sané was one of the individuals who stood out. in a 34-match season, Lamine started 15 matches for the Lions, and subbed into one, for 16 total appearances and 1,373 minutes. He was limited to that by injuries to his knee and quad that kept him out for extended periods.
Sané scored one goal and finished with four shot attempts, two of which were on target. He ended the season with a passing success rate of 88.1%, an average of 1.8 tackles per match, 2.9 interceptions per match, 4.4 clearances per match, and one own goal early in the season. He committed only 10 fouls on the season while drawing four, and he received just one yellow card and no reds.
He also played in one U.S. Open Cup match, going the full 120 minutes in a 1-1 draw against D.C. United in which the Lions advanced on penalty kicks. He recorded six recoveries and two clearances in the game.
I think his best match has to be the 2-0 victory on the road against the Philadelphia Union back on April 13. Sané hadn’t played many games with his new team at that point but it was obvious that his acquisition was going to be a positive throughout the season. He showed nothing but poise and quality leadership as he helped the Lions keep one of their few clean sheets this season. He was all over the Union defensively, making two tackles, two blocked shots, six clearances, and a team-high seven interceptions in the match. His 92% passing rate led all Orlando starters. It was a complete effort from the big center back.
An honorable mention goes to his performance in a 3-1 home win over Real Salt Lake, when he did this:
Goals by center backs are one thing, but home goals off of set pieces in front of the home crowd while helping your team to a 3-1 win are another.
2018 Final Grade
It is a bit difficult to truly break down anyone who worked the back line this season. The constant shuffle did no one justice, and may contribute to year-end grades lower than what they should be. It is also noteworthy that Sané is listed, statistically speaking, as one of the top five Lions this season, if you believe in data and statistics.
The Mane Land staff collectively gave Sané an average grade of 6.5 for the year when polled yesterday. This aligns pretty well with his yearly average of 6.25 in the individual match player grades. Also of note would be his two Man of the Match honors, receiving one from the staff and one from the readers.
Sané is one of the higher paid players on the Orlando City roster with total compensation of $855,000 — he is a player the club used significant Targeted Allocation Money on — and although he may end up being one of the higher rated players this season, I am not sure the salary matches the seasonal outcome. If he can stay healthy, Sané is an easy choice to start on the back line, but healthy is key. Moving into 2019, the Lions cannot afford the same rotating cast of players in the back as they had this year.
Sané stands out as one of the bright pick-ups for the Lions in 2018. Injuries kept him sidelined for far too many matches, and hopefully 2019 is not the same. When match fit, Sané is absolutely one of the best center backs this club has, and will only get better with a consistent set of players around him.
Previous Orlando City Season in Review Posts (Date Posted)
- Cam Lindley (10/31)
- Tony Rocha (11/1)
- Cristian Higuita (11/2)
- Joe Bendik (11/3)
- Jose Villareal (11/3)
- Dillon Powers (11/4)
- Chris Mueller (11/5)
- Mohamed El-Munir (11/6)
- PC (11/6)
- Jonathan Spector (11/7)
- Will Johnson (11/8)
- Chris Schuler (11/9)
- Earl Edwards, Jr. (11/9)
- Josué Colmán (11/10)
- Donny Toia (11/10)