Although goalkeeper Pedro Gallese only has a total of three clean sheets since joining Orlando City, it is fair to say that the Peruvian shot stopper has established himself as one of the more solid goalkeepers in MLS. Due to his decent season between the sticks, the 30-year-old retained his spot with the Peruvian National Team and was called up for the next couple of weeks for World Cup qualifiers. Gallese and Ecuadorian midfielder Sebas Mendez will both miss the next three to four MLS fixtures at the very least and both of them have been mainstays in Orlando City’s starting 11.
Our Michael Citro talked about the multiple options the Lions have to replace Mendez ahead of last Saturday’s match against New York. In regards to Gallese, however, there is only one man who will inevitably take gloves for the next few games. Of course, it will be last season’s starter, Brian Rowe. Luckily, the American has safe enough hands to mitigate the blow of El Pulpo’s absence and is an adequate replacement for the time being.
The 31-year-old scooped up an MLS Cup in 2014 with the LA Galaxy and has a good deal of experience. He only started three games that season, but was an effective stopgap in goal filling in during an unbeaten streak, going 1-0-2. Rowe enters a similar scenario now and that will help tremendously in these weeks without Gallese. While he may not be as much of a superstar as El Pulpo, he has the ability to adequately get the job done.
Rowe had 32 league appearances last season for the Lions and even though Orlando City had a pretty dire season, that was not solely because of him by any stretch of the imagination. Oscar Pareja has helped solidify the team and now Orlando City is genuinely quite difficult to play against. One would find it hard to say the same about Orlando last season. The Lions have conceded 16 goals in 15 matches this MLS regular season and sit third in the league with 29 points. Last season, 15 games in, Orlando City was in eighth place with only 18 points to its name and 21 conceded goals.
The American will surely have less pressure on him to make saves and will not have the shaky defense in front of him that was in place at the club last season. And even with that being said, Rowe still managed an impressive seven clean sheets in his 32 appearances last year, and was partially responsible for the Lions improving their total goals conceded by 22 over the abysmal 74 allowed during the 2018 season.
Obviously, when Gallese returns from national duties, he will be given back his position in goal because he is a better keeper. But while he is away, Rowe has a set of shot-stopping hands that are more than safe enough to soften the blow of his absence.
Meanwhile, look for Mason Stajduhar to move up to the primary backup spot for Orlando City while El Pulpo is away. Stajduhar made the Lions’ bench for just the second time in his career on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls. The 22-year-old played a few matches for OCB earlier this year and performed well overall. In three matches, Stajduhar made 11 saves, conceding four goals with the Young Lions. Although OCB went 0-2-1 in those matches, Stajduhar faced 54 total shots and 15 shots on target in those matches. He’s likely not quite ready for MLS competition but the Homegrown Player is prepared to take the field if he’s needed after gaining some valuable minutes and facing a lot of shots.
Gallese will miss the Atlanta, Columbus, and New York City FC matches during his absence, and likely the New York Red Bulls game as well under the current MLS 10-day quarantine mandate. And he could potentially miss the Inter Miami game, depending on how MLS counts the days, as the game against the Herons will be Oct. 24 — the 10th day, assuming Gallese arrives in Orlando on Oct. 14, one day after his match against Brazil in his native Peru.
Until whenever El Pulpo becomes available again, Rowe will simply have to hold things down.