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Orlando City’s Dillon Powers Has Made the Most of U.S. Open Cup Opportunities

The makings of a renaissance?

MLS: Orlando City Invitational-New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Since his acquisition from the Colorado Rapids in August of 2017, Dillon Powers has only made 10 MLS appearances for Orlando City. He has only appeared once during the 2019 season, when he went the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss on the road to the Seattle Sounders.

Suffice it to say that it’s been a departure from the 136 regular season appearances in five seasons with the Rapids, but he’s still been working hard despite his lack of minutes. He spoke earlier in the month about his feeling that his work in training has him seeing the game better than he used to, while also improving his physique. While the scarcity of playing time certainly has not been easy, his hard work has begun to pay off over the last couple of weeks.

For a lot of MLS sides, the U.S. Open Cup is a time for squad rotation, and depending on the club it often isn’t treated as seriously as the endeavor of winning an MLS Cup, at least until a team advances to the latter stages of the competition. With the fourth round and round of 16 matches of the Open Cup taking place during the Copa America and Gold Cup, Orlando City has found itself short six players, with Greg Ranjitsingh, Danilo Acosta, Kamal Miller, Will Johnson, and Sebas Mendez all away on international duty. The absences of Johnson and Mendez, in particular, loom large, as both have been key contributors this season. That meant Orlando’s clash with Memphis 901 FC in the fourth round was bound to feature some lesser-seen faces, and it just so happened that Powers turned out to be one of those faces.

As mentioned before, it wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Powers this season, with the Seattle loss being his first appearance. The Mane Land’s own Bearded Guy gave the midfielder a grade of 6.5 on the night, and while he committed a mistake that led to Seattle’s second goal, he also won the ball in the midfield and assisted Chris Mueller’s goal to make it 2-1. While it wasn’t a spectacular outing, it was a solid performance from a player who hadn’t played a competitive game in quite awhile.

During the game against Memphis, however, he was quite possibly the best player on the pitch not named Mueller, and I gave him a grade of 8 for the game, a score I believe was very well deserved. Powers was everywhere, and was a constant source of running through the midfield, continuing to pressure the Memphis players time and again. It was quite a return to the lineup for him and certainly warranted a second start on the trot against the New England Revolution on Wednesday night.

For me, Powers’ outing against the Revolution might have been even better than his showing against Memphis. No disrespect to the side from Tennessee, but the competition on Wednesday night was a step up from the previous week and the former MLS Rookie of the Year didn’t seem to miss a beat.

Once again he ran his ass off all night long, looked calm and assured on the ball, and was accurate with his passes for the most part. He also wasn’t afraid to have a pop at goal, with only an excellent Matt Turner save able to deny him from opening the scoring on the night and grabbing his second USOC goal with the Lions. He also made a spectacular block in the second half, putting his body on the line to prevent what surely would have been a goal. And as heroic as the block was, his intelligence in tracking back into the box to even be in position to get in front of the shot was equally impressive.

After Cristian Higuita went off injured just before halftime, Powers’ influence in the game grew and he found himself doing an even larger share of the less-glamorous closing down of space and tracking back than he had already been doing. Unfortunately, his relentless running and hard-nosed exploits seemed to take their toll on him as the match went into the second half of extra time.

He went down with what looked to be a groin injury and was noticeably limping as he left the field. While there hasn’t been any news on his condition as of the writing of this piece, I strongly hope it isn’t anything too serious. An injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for him, as I wouldn’t be surprised if his last couple of performances have given James O’Connor something to think about. Plus with the group stage of the Gold Cup not over until next week and Ecuador currently still alive in the Copa America, there are still minutes to be had for players who don’t feature as regularly in the first team.

Even once Orlando’s international players return, Powers’ services will almost certainly be needed, with the team facing a hellish run of nine games in 32 days, starting with an away match against D.C. United next Wednesday. With a little luck, the midfielder will be fit sooner rather than later and he’ll keep on making the most of the opportunities that come his way.