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In Defense of Orlando City’s Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan, and Brian Rowe

Put away the pitchforks, because these guys aren’t as bad as you think.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The internet is not a nice place. I’m sorry to have shocked you with such a bold opening statement, but it’s true. It’s also true that sports fans are sometimes vocal about their disdain for certain players on their beloved teams.

On occasion, such vitriol is warranted, but other times it’s just a gut feeling a supporter has that the player in question is not living up to an arbitrary standard. Orlando City players and supporters are not immune to this phenomenon. Let’s take a look at some of the players currently in the sights of the disgruntled fan.

Brian Rowe

Let’s face it, the fans love them some Grinny. Adam Grinwis’ save to put Orlando through in the U.S. Open Cup against New York City FC was a historical moment for the Lions. However, Brian Rowe has been the starter for Orlando City most of the season. He was a “blah” signing following the departure of Joe Bendik, but given the financial constraints the front office was working with, he was a good signing. Rowe hasn’t really endeared himself to the fans the way previous keepers like Bendik or Tally Hall did.

I’d argue that the ire is unwarranted. Rowe has 60 saves this season, which is good enough for seventh in the league. He’s allowed 25 goals, putting him 14th in the league. And his goals-against average of 1.32 and his save percentage of 68.2 land him in 11th place in the league. Those numbers squarely place him in the middle of the pack for MLS keepers. Do we want Rowe, or another keeper, to take Orlando City to the top of the mountain? Of course. But let’s not pretend he’s not at least an average to above average keeper.

Sacha Kljestan

Poor Sacha Kljestan. Brought in last year by Jason Kreis along with Justin Meram, he never lived up to the standard of play he had before joining the Lions. There have been flashes here and there, and I think he has been put in bad situations (like playing with Meram). However, someone of his quality should be contributing more.

That is true, unless he’s not the type of player that current Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor wants in his system. Certain players are a better fit than others for certain playing styles, and the fact that we haven’t seen that much of Kljestan this season indicates to me that he isn’t O’Connor’s guy going forward.

So, throw the bum out, right? Not so fast. The thing that Kljestan has done this season is play his role. Not only that, but he’s done it with a smile on his face. Whatever O’Connor has asked him to do, he’s done it. Is he the best player at his position, or the player O’Connor wants? Maybe not. However, he has been a professional, team player, unlike others who have left this club.

Dom Dwyer

Mr. “He scores when he wants” was given a raucous welcome when he arrived in Orlando to join the MLS side. He was the returning hero from the heady USL championship days, and the supporters were eager for him to return Orlando City to that type of glory. Now, the tide has turned.

Many on social media are calling to get rid of him, claiming that he doesn’t care for the club, that he isn’t trying hard enough, or that he isn’t scoring enough goals. I’ve often joked on the podcast that I’d like Dom to want to score more, as if that is all that is missing. Between adjusting to O’Connor’s desired style of play, some injuries, and taking time off to see his lovely daughter born, it hasn’t been the banner season supporters expected. Top that off with a red card in the last match, and the torches and pitchforks are being pulled out of sheds across the internet.

Let’s look at the numbers. In 2018, Dom scored 13 goals with zero assists in 2,244 minutes across 26 matches (25 starts). That translates to scoring or assisting on a goal every 172.62 minutes. In 2019, Dom has scored five goals with two assists in 872 minutes across 16 matches (seven starts). That translates to scoring or assisting on a goal every 124.57 minutes. I’m no mathematician, but those are better numbers. As for him not caring about this club, I’ll let his face following Grinwis’ save tell the story.

I’m not under any illusion that I’m going to change minds on the internet, but if you have any feedback, feel free to share it in the comments below. Just leave the torches and pitchforks in the shed, okay?