Monday, Oct. 25, 2010 was the day Orlando City was born.
Phil Rawlins folded the Austin Aztex and moved his team to Orlando. From there, the rest was history, as the saying goes. The Lions took the United Soccer League by storm in their inaugural season and beat the Harrisburg City Islanders in the 2011 USL Pro Championship. The team won the regular season three times (2011, 2012, and 2014) and the championship twice (2011 and 2013) in just four USL seasons before making the jump to MLS.
Orlando’s MLS history has not been as successful though and the team has yet to make the playoffs. The team underwent a coaching carousel with now four full-time head coaches in five years.
But while the team has not had success in MLS, individual players certainly have. Since its inception, Orlando has seen fireworks from its players and we will take a look at the top Orlando City players of the decade.
This is not the “best” or most talented players. The Player of the Decade should go to the player that made the biggest impact on the team — the most important player that Orlando City has had over the past 10 years, taking both the USL and MLS eras into consideration. A player does not have to have played in both leagues to qualify, but both eras should be considered, as the team split the decade across two different levels of the game.
Make sure to vote for your Orlando City Player of the Decade in the poll below, and tell us why in the comments. And if you think it’s someone other than the list of top candidates below, let us know that too. We will compile the poll results, along with The Mane Land staff voting to determine The Mane Land’s Orlando City Player of the Decade for the 2010s.
Below are the top candidates, listed alphabetically by last name.
Bodz left Orlando in 2016 after six years in purple. The Lions were not bringing back the fullback, and what happened next was a perfect example of the type of person he is. With options to continue to play in MLS, Boden went west and joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He put his own ambitions aside to provide a better life for his family, as his son was receiving treatment for an eye condition. A family man, through and through.
His impact was also felt on the field. Playing as a left back, he racked up minutes when the team played in the USL. He has the most appearances out of any Orlando City player with 132. Kevin Molino (124) ranks a close second, but there is a huge margin afterward with Cristian Higuita at 103. The current City player with the next most appearances is Dom Dwyer with 78, so Boden will hold that accolade for the foreseeable future.
Boden also has the second most assists in club history, with 22, and bagged five goals as a defender. He was named to the 2014 All-USL First Team. He also was named to the USL Team of the Week three times, starting twice and making the bench once.
Dennis Chin’s contributions to the Lions were enormous in the USL days. He was the 2012 Golden Boot winner, First Team USL in 2012, and a 10-time USL Player of the Week. His 22 goals in 44 starts averages to a goal in every other game and he has the sixth-most appearances in Orlando City history, with 84.
Dwyer is arguably the best success story in Orlando City history. He was loaned from Sporting Kansas City in 2013 as a mostly unknown prospect. The forward’s impact was immediate and he quickly became a fan favorite. Dwyer scored 15 goals in 13 games that season and that success prompted Sporting KC to recall him. After helping the Lions for most of the season, he returned for the championship match and scored four goals and added an assist to lead Orlando to another title.
Dwyer went on to find MLS success with SKC but as soon as the Lions became an MLS side, fans began to wonder if he could be lured back to the City Beautiful. It happened on July 25, 2017, and there was a homecoming feeling about it.
He has since scored 24 goals in Orlando’s MLS era in 65 games. 2019 was very much an off-year for the striker where he only scored seven goals, down from 13 in 2018, but contributed his second-highest assist total of his career, with four. In total, Dwyer has 39 regular-season goals for Orlando, putting him second to only Cyle Larin’s 43. If you count playoff and USOC goals, Dwyer is the club’s all-time leader, with 46.
Gallardo was probably the first Orlando City icon. The goalkeeper was named USL Goalkeeper of the Year in 2011 and was a mainstay in the net during the USL days. His 81 appearances are second-most among Orlando City goalkeepers. Compared with goalkeepers who played at least 10 matches, Gallardo has the best goals-against average (0.81), the most shutouts (33), the second-most saves (231), and the most wins. His 53 wins are only nine fewer than every other OCSC goalkeeper combined.
While not amazing, Kaká’s MLS career was good. He amassed 75 appearances (69 starts), 24 goals, and 22 assists. He is tied with Boden for the second-most assists and ranks fourth in goals. Although he was no longer playing at a Ballon d’Or level, he was still one of the better players in the league. He put the team on his back at times and got points on his own, like in Orlando’s inaugural MLS game against New York City FC.
Even more impressive than his on the field performance was his impact off it. From his first day in Orlando, fans adored him and flocked the airport to greet him. Kaká was a large part in turning Orlando into the soccer city it is today.
Cyle Larin’s departure from Orlando was an unpleasant one. But while he was with the Lions, he was one of the most lethal scoring threats in the league. The Canadian is Orlando’s all-time leading goal scorer, scoring 43 goals in three seasons. He was sixth in the league in 2015 with 17 goals and won the MLS Rookie of the Year that same year, setting a new league record for goals by a rookie. The next year, he won Goal of the Week four times, scored 14 goals, and added three assists. He is still the only Lion to score a hat trick in MLS — a feat he accomplished twice.
At one point in time, Kaká said that Molino could be a possible transfer target for AC Milan. Injuries have haunted the midfielder’s career, but he remains one of the most vital players in Orlando City history. Molino has the third-most goals in Orlando City history (37) and the most in the USL days. He also has the most assists of any Lion (27).
Orlando traded Molino to Adrian Heath’s Minnesota United in 2017 for $650,000 in allocation money. The front office wished to keep Molino, but the midfielder asked to be traded.
He won the USL MVP in both 2012 and 2014 and was a finalist for MLS Comeback Player of the year in 2016 after tearing his ACL the previous season.
Vote who you think deserves the title of Orlando City Player of the Decade and let us know in the comments below how you came to your decision.
Who is Orlando City’s Player of the Decade?
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