Kyle Smith was one of James O’Connor’s guys from the Louisville City FC days, and was one of two LCFC players brought in by O’Connor when he took over in Orlando. When there is a coaching change, guys like that don’t usually end up staying on the roster, but Smith earned the respect of the front office and Óscar Pareja with his work ethic, and that paid dividends for all parties when João Moutinho got injured. He isn’t the flashiest player, the biggest name, or even the first team choice, but the man earned his place on a much improved Orlando City roster.
Let’s dig deeper into Kyle Smith’s 2020 season.
Smith played in 16 league games this season. He started 11 of those games and accumulated 1,026 minutes on the field. He also appeared in all four of Orlando’s knockout round games in the MLS is Back Tournament (all off the bench for 18 total minutes) as well as both playoff games. Smith was Pareja’s utility man, playing at both fullback positions, and in the midfield as needed.
Pareja’s fullbacks are expected to get into the offense and Smith took eight shots, with five shots on goal. He did not score a goal but he did record one assist. He committed 25 fouls, and suffered seven, which is not surprising given his defensive role on the field. Defensively, Smith ended the season with 14 interceptions, 38 tackles, 38 clearances, and four blocked shots. Smith completed 81.6% of his passes with 38 long balls, 10 crosses, and 10 key passes.
Smith’s best game was the 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 3 that extended Orlando City’s unbeaten streak at the time to nine games. Smith made some key defensive plays to help keep the Red Bulls from scoring more than one, and had a 74% passing rate, seven tackles, a clearance, five crosses, and an assist in the match. Check out Smith’s inch-perfect cross onto Daryl Dike’s head to get his only assist of the year.
2020 Final Grade
Smith did everything asked of him and more for the Lions this season. While no one would argue for him starting over Ruan or Moutinho, he proved himself to be a more than adequate replacement. During the season, Smith averaged a 5.5 in The Mane Land’s player grades pieces. However, The Mane Land staff was impressed enough with the performance of the backup role player to give him a final composite grade of 6.
Smith will be back in purple for the 2021 season, as Orlando City exercised his option. I anticipate that Smith will continue to be the plug-and-play backup that every successful club needs to have. With a year under Pareja’s system, and more minutes than might have been expected, Smith has become a valuable piece for Orlando City as the club looks to better 2020’s results.