June 30, 2014 was a day that changed the history of Orlando City and even made a huge impact on the City Beautiful itself. It was on that Monday afternoon that all rumors were confirmed. Brazilian superstar and former Ballon d’Or winner Kaká arrived at Orlando International Airport and was set to become the Lions’ first ever Designated Player.
Kaká quickly became the face of the city. From his work in the community to interviews of stating his goal of winning championships, the city’s support for the club grew and Orlando quickly became the Soccer Capital of the South. Everything that Kaká has done off the field has made the club what it is today.
There are arguments made that he has not had the same effect on the field but Kaká scored 25 goals in his injury-plagued three years — good enough for the second most on the team in that span. Also, Kaká’s 22 assists were the most among fellow Lions during his time in Orlando. Kaká had a goal or assist three out of every five games and statistically was one of the best Lions from 2015 to 2017.
After Kaká retired, many people were wondering how the team would cope without him and who would step up. The team that ended the 2017 season lacked much star power and Head Coach Jason Kreis responded to that by bringing in an almost entirely different lineup. Jonathan Spector replaced Kaká as the new captain and has since become the leader on the field.
But one thing that Orlando City still lacks is a face to the team. Maybe the club realized this and that was its reason in launching the Face of City campaign. Still, the team needs a player to fill that role.
The Orlando Pride have two world class players in Marta and Alex Morgan, but the Lions, even with the roster overhaul this winter, lack those big name players. In the post-Kaká era a new Lion will need to step up. While there are many candidates, it is Dom Dwyer’s turn to be the Face of City.
After being drafted 16th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by Sporting Kansas City, Dwyer never got a big opportunity and was loaned out to Orlando in 2013, which was then in the USL. It was during that time that Dom showed what he is capable of. Scoring 22 goals in 17 games, including four goals in Orlando’s 7-4 USL final victory, the striker became a fan favorite in a matter of weeks.
It is for this outstanding play that Dwyer’s return to central Florida was greeted with much anticipation, despite the extremely high transfer fee, and this season has been no exception. Dom has played in just two games this season and he has put up three goals which helped the Lions to six points. In games without Dwyer, Orlando City has only one point and two goals scored.
“Every great team needs a goal scorer,” Kreis said after the Portland comeback. “Every great team needs somebody that’s going to put the ball in the back of the net on a consistent basis and Dom is proving himself to be that for us this year, no doubt.”
So far, Dwyer averages a remarkable 1.75 goals per 90 minutes played, albeit the sample size is considerably small. This number will definitely drop as the season goes on but it shows his effectiveness early on and how he simply changes the game when he is in.
A perfect example of this is in the 4-3 win over New York. The video below shows the highlights of this game. First, go to the 0:35 mark and just watch Dwyer’s movement off the ball. It was great ball from Sacha Kljestan to find Justin Meram in the corner, and an even better ball from Meram across the middle, but without this movement from Dwyer it is an easy defensive clearance. Dwyer shuffles away from Will Johnson to draw the defender and leaves Johnson all alone for the easy put-in.
Dom’s first goal came at the 1:25 second mark in the highlight video, and, while some people are calling for a foul, Dom shows his hustle and desire to find the back of the net any way possible. Then, if you keep watching, the next play is Dwyer’s second goal and once again it is his off-the-ball movement, combined with his communication, that makes this goal.
The bottom line is that Dwyer finds ways to score. His work ethic is always one the best on the team and he transforms the Lions into a true playoff contender. Kaká may no longer be in Orlando but Dwyer will quickly be the reasons fans show up to the game.