Dom Dwyer is Orlando City’s second highest goal scorer in 2019 with three goals, behind only Nani. All of them came in a four game span in March. Since then he has played in all six matches but has tallied 405 minutes without scoring, the longest active goal drought among the five players to have netted for the Lions this season.
Currently, the English-born U.S. international has come into criticism having been the subject of some high-profile misses. One such example was against New York City FC in April’s 1–1 draw, sending a free header off a Ruan cross wide of an open goal from six yards out. It happened again this past weekend in City’s 1–0 loss to Atlanta, with Dwyer once again failing to capitalize on a gilt edged chance, only managing to redirect another Ruan cross back across the face of goal and into the grateful arms of Brad Guzan, a chance that had an xG value of 0.75. His xG differential is the worst in the league bar none. In short, he’s leading the league in wasted chances.
For further context, last night, Paul Arriola became the 50th player to score at least three goals in MLS in 2019. Of that half century of players, Dwyer has registered 33 shots, the fifth most behind only Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Diego Rossi and Josef Martinez. However, despite his prolific number of attempts, Dwyer ranks 36th in accuracy at 36.36% (12 shots on target) and dead last of the 50 players looked at for shot conversion, with only 9.09% of his shots successfully becoming goals.
You can argue “but he has never been an efficient goalscorer, he’s a career poacher” but the chances we are now talking about are from five yards out and put on a plate. In addition, Orlando City invested a lot of capital into Dwyer, namely an MLS-record $1.6 million — $1 million more than the previous record Minnesota United set to acquire Kevin Molino.
Although such financial factors are perhaps not as pertinent in other leagues, MLS is salary capped with a limited amount of resources in the form of allocation money. Dwyer carries a Designated Player tag, a designation that explicitly marks a player out as a best-in-the-league difference maker and he’s a world away from justifying that status. Sporting Kansas City Head Coach Pete Vermes knew Dwyer’s value at the time, stating: “I have to look at the short and long term aspects of the organization. When you’re in a salary cap situation, sometimes you can’t keep everybody.”
Dwyer was brought in with a view to replacing the departing Cyle Larin. The Canadian currently remains the leading goal scorer in Orlando City history. Larin also has the second best goals-per-game ratio (0.49) behind only Nani, who has scored five in his first 10 appearances in purple. Despite his rough patch, Dwyer comes in third on that list with 0.4 goals per game and he is also up to third on the total goals list behind both Larin and retired Brazilian international Kaká. And while it’s important to acknowledge the job Dwyer has done for Orlando up until this point, the current spell is frankly dismal.
It’s no secret that strikers go through rough patches and the only way you get out of it is to play your way out of it. It’s a position that relies on confidence and Dwyer’s emotional reaction to being subbed out says it all — he’s frustrated. No doubt he directs a lot of that at himself. He’s well aware of the chances he’s missed. But as one of Orlando’s Designated Players, he’s likely embarrassed knowing he’s not the type of player you should be taking out of a game at 1–0 down. Dwyer wanted to stay on the pitch, make amends and break his duck, not watch the rest of the game helplessly from the bench. Yet James O’Connor had seen enough. Dwyer was substituted for Chris Mueller but Orlando’s only true like-for-like alternatives are two rookies with 88 combined professional minutes between them. The team doesn’t have the quality in depth at this moment in time to be able to get results with Dwyer passing up chances at the rate he is. For a team that last year set an unwanted defensive record for number of goals conceded, it is now the offensive output that is proving the bigger problem.
Last week, O’Connor publicly defended his players and tried to calm public nerves surrounding the teams’ finishing. After the Atlanta game, he still tried to put a positive spin on the performance, saying, “I really feel like there was a relentless effort to try and get something out of the game. To show that courage and that bravery and the volume of really good chances to take is fantastic. But you have to take them. Ultimately, we’ve lost the game 1–0.”
Even so, it appears the Irishman is growing weary of his side’s failure to capitalize. He knows the front office has an itchy trigger finger in a results-based business, but he also knows he isn’t the one on the end of those crosses.
“When you create that amount of chances, you have to take them. It really hurts because the score could and should be different, but it’s not because we didn’t take them.”
Dwyer’s strike partner Tesho Akindele, a $150,000 acquisition from FC Dallas in the off-season, is now 389 minutes without a goal and admitted they should be doing better.
“I think we had three or four, I would say, really good chances that you would expect us to score maybe 80 percent of the time, 90 percent of the time. We didn’t take advantage of that and that was the difference.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Will Johnson had a lot more fight to his post-match comments, taking pride in their progress from a dismal 2018 season and deciding to remain hopeful of the long-term outlook for this team.
“We can look at it one of two ways: we can understand that that’s a pretty good performance and we can build on that and keep progressing forward, or we can do what we’ve done first four years of the club and we can feel sorry for ourselves and fold and turn this couple of back-to-back losses into a lost season. Or we can use it in a positive way and know that next time we get in these positions, our guys are going to come through in a real way and help us get back into this season.”
The Lions don’t have to wait long to react to the defeat as they gear up for a midweek matchup in Seattle on Wednesday, against a Sounders team that has conceded 0.86 goals per game at home this year and has the third best points-per-game record in MLS. Orlando has made two previous visits to CenturyLink Field, earning a 1–1 draw in 2017 after a 4–0 inaugural season loss.