With the 2019 MLS season beginning this weekend, there are two Orlando City players that are approaching club milestones. Given the youth of the club, with this being its ninth season overall (fifth in MLS), the club’s record holders haven’t recorded very high numbers. Regardless, it’s important to recognize the commitment and success that certain players have had, given the recent turmoil and turnover the club has dealt with.
For those unfamiliar with the history of Orlando City, the club started in 2011, playing in the newly formed USL Pro. After four years dominating the third division in American soccer, the Lions joined MLS for the 2015 season. The league’s single-entity structure means that, legally, the USL club and MLS club can be considered separate entities. However, they are organizationally the same, as the club maintained the same name, ownership, front office staff, general manager, coaching staff, and eight players between the final USL season and first MLS season. For this reason, we consider the club the same and apply the overall statistics accordingly.
Some might criticize records when considering both third division and first division statistics. While these are definitely two different levels of play and that fact should be taken into consideration, records such as all-time appearances and goals scored are as much about the players’ commitment and contribution to the club as anything. Every club in the world considers every league the team has played in when listing the all-time leaders in these statistics.
Higuita Nearing Century Mark
The only member of the inaugural MLS squad in 2015 still at the club, Cristian Higuita is only three appearances short of reach 100. While the club claims that he reached this mark last season, that count included international friendlies, which don’t count toward overall appearances. In actuality, Higuita has made 94 MLS appearances and three in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. While his 97 appearances are already the most ever in the club’s MLS era, three more will see him become the fourth player in club history to reach the 100-game milestone. The first three were players that started with the club during its inaugural season in 2011. Left back Luke Boden made 155 appearances, midfielder Kevin Molino made 144 appearances, and forward Dennis Chin made 103. Boden’s and Molino’s spanned both the USL and MLS eras.
Whether a player receives 100 caps for their country or makes 100 appearances for their club, hitting the century mark is a tremendous accomplishment and deserves to be recognized. While three previous players have hit the mark, all of those had the majority of their appearances in the USL, making this milestone a little different as Higuita has made all of his appearances during the MLS era. In addition to being three shy of 100 competitive games, Higuita is also, of course, just six matches shy of 100 MLS regular-season appearances.
A New Goal-Scoring King
In 2017, Orlando City returned a player who featured prominently in the club’s history. Despite only playing in 17 competitive games for the club, Dom Dwyer scored an astounding 22 goals during the 2013 season, including four in the USL Pro championship game. After spending half of the season on loan in Orlando, the striker was recalled by Sporting Kansas City. He insisted on returning for the championship game, where he led the Lions to their second league title.
From the time that Orlando City entered MLS, the club had tried to bring Dwyer back to Orlando. Former Head Coach Adrian Heath, who managed the team throughout the USL era, called Orlando Dwyer’s “spiritual home” in 2015 during an episode of the coach’s show. In 2017, the club finally was able to trade for the former star striker, in move that Dwyer labeled his feelings as “delighted.” After arriving in Orlando, Dwyer stated that his goal was to become the club’s all-time leading goal scorer.
In addition to Dwyer’s 22 goals in 2013, his four goals in 2017 and 13 last season have him within touching distance of the overall goal-scoring record. Currently, the mark for most goals scored by an Orlando City player belongs to Cyle Larin. The club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft pick in 2015, Larin scored 44 goals between 2015 and 2017. Second on the list is Kevin Molino, the only Lion to score 20 goals in a single season. He reached that mark in 2014, when he won his second USL Pro MVP award. Molino left the club prior to the 2017 season after accumulating 42 total goals with Orlando.
In all competitions for Orlando City, Dwyer currently sits at 39 goals, three back of Molino and five behind Larin on the club’s all-time list. As for goals during the MLS era, Dwyer also currently sits third and will also likely make up ground during the 2019 season. His 17 goals place him eight behind Kaká’s 25 and 27 behind Larin’s record mark of 44. While Dwyer will likely not catch Larin this season, he will most likely surpass Kaká’s total and could very well pass Larin next year. If he were to do so, Dwyer would without question be the king of Orlando City goal scorers, owning the overall club record and the record during the MLS era.
Orlando City has experienced a tremendous amount of turnover during the past four years. While this may be disheartening to many fans, two club legends are approaching important milestones that can be celebrated. We’ll keep you updated as these two players continue to approach these milestones.