In 2020, Orlando City had a different starting goalkeeper for the third straight season, which sent veteran Brian Rowe to the bench. The Lions originally signed Rowe in February of 2019 after a trial period in pre-season with only young netminders Greg Ranjitsingh, Adam Grinwis, and Mason Stajduhar under contract at the time.
After a good-yet-unspectacular 2019 season, 2020 saw Orlando bring in Pedro Gallese, an eventual MLS Goalkeeper of the Year nominee. Before the season was over, Rowe’s veteran presence and playoff experience proved important for Orlando, as he was forced to start some games down the stretch and in the Lions’ final playoff match.
After 32 starts a season ago, Rowe made just five in 2020. Playing behind Gallese, Rowe made just four league starts, and one more in the playoffs due to Gallese’s suspension. Rowe allowed eight goals in all competitions this year and made 19 saves. Five of those goals against and 16 saves came in the regular season and three goals and three saves came in the Eastern Conference semifinal. However, Orlando City did not win a single game with Rowe in net this year.
Rowe made four starts in the regular season. In those games, Orlando City went 0-1-3. He allowed five goals, made 16 saves, and had one clean sheet, finishing with a goals-against average of 1.25 — an improvement from 1.53 a year ago. He faced 52 total shots in the regular season, including 21 on goal and had a save percentage of 76.19%.
The 32-year-old was also forced to start a match in the playoffs. This was Rowe’s fourth MLS playoff start and just his second loss. It was his first playoff match since 2016 when he was with the LA Galaxy. He made three saves against New England but also allowed three goals on nine shots (six on target). The only penalty that he faced all season came in this playoff match. Rowe dove to his right, but Carles Gil slotted the ball right down the middle for the match’s opening goal.
Rowe’s best game was Orlando City’s 1-1 draw against New York City FC on Oct. 14. The Lions were without nine players, including Gallese, so Rowe made his 100th MLS start. The keeper finished the match with seven saves, including three saves late to secure a point for Orlando. He faced his season highs in shots (18) and shots on target (8) in the match.
The lone goal that he let in could hardly be blamed on Rowe. After a turnover in Orlando’s end, NYCFC went on the counter. Rowe made the initial save, but Keaton Parks was left unmarked, and he passed the rebound into the back of the net.
Here’s a look at some of his best work in that game:
Rowe also did well distributing the ball. He attempted 20 passes at a 70% passing rate and completed six of 12 long balls attempted.
2020 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff voted nearly unanimously to give Rowe a grade of 6. This is down half a point from his 6.5 a year ago. This is almost perfectly aligned with his average player grade per match of 6.2. He could have done better in a couple of games — such as the playoff game against New England and the 3-2 loss to Nashville — but no results were because of a poor performance from Rowe.
Rowe’s time as an MLS starter appears to be over. However, having an experienced player like Rowe in the locker room, who can step up and start when needed, is an invaluable asset. Rowe is currently out of contract, but the club is in discussions to bring him back next season. If Rowe returns, expect him to have a similar impact as 2020 — the second choice goalkeeper. He may be trying to explore his options elsewhere and fighting for a starting spot, which he will likely not get in Orlando.