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2020 Orlando City Season in Review: Benji Michel

Orlando’s own Benji Michel had another solid season in purple in 2020.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 season was Benji Michel’s second with Orlando City and second in the professional game, after signing a Homegrown deal with the Lions before the start of the 2019 season. The Orlando native spent time in the Orlando City Development Academy and at the University of Portland before becoming a solid rotation option for James O’Connor last season.

It was a good first season in purple for Benji, but how did he fare in his sophomore effort in the City Beautiful?

Statistical Breakdown

Like last season, Michel was a heavily used rotation piece, with 21 regular-season appearances, including eight starts, playing a total of 840 minutes. Even with relatively limited minutes, he still produced solid numbers, with five goals — two game winners — and added two assists, taking just 16 shots and getting 10 on target. His finishing was superb, as he scored on half of his shots on goal.

His passing rate of 79.38% was decent for a forward, and he committed just eight fouls while drawing 17 free kicks. He saw two yellow cards this season. He may not have created a wealth of opportunities (a decent 0.6 key passes per game) but he typically capitalized when he had the chance. His efficiency on the ball wasn’t great, however, as he only completed 15 of 37 attempted dribbles. Defensively, he averaged 0.5 tackles, 0.2 interceptions, 0.6 clearances, and 0.1 blocks per match.

Michel also played in three of the Lions’ four MLS is BAck Tournament knockout stage games — all off the bench — scoring one goal on two shots, with one on goal. The lone strike came against Minnesota in the semifinals. He added a pair of appearances in the postseason, playing 15 minutes against New York City FC, but his lone contribution came in the sudden death portion of the penalty shootout, when he scored the winning penalty. He played 12 minutes against New England but didn’t contribute a lot in that match, aside from winning a pair of free kicks.

It wasn’t an elite season, but it was another good step for the best Homegrown signing in Orlando City’s brief MLS history so far.

Best Game

Michel’s best game was probably the 1-1 draw against Nashville SC on Sept. 2. He opened the scoring with one of Orlando’s best goals of the season, an absolute rocket from outside the box. All game, he was a nightmare for Nashville, using his speed and underrated strength to put himself in great positions to score. He finished with a whopping nine successful dribbles on 12 attempts and also added a key pass in his 73 minutes of action on the day.

Our Scott Cavernale named Benji his Man of the Match on the night saying:

It was a quiet start to the match. Orlando was dominating possession, but nothing much happened until the Homegrown product put a banger into the upper 90 to open the scoring. That was Michel’s second goal — first in MLS play — of the season. He had a perfect chance to earn a brace in the 70th minute. Tesho Akindele back-heeled a ball in the box to him, but Michel took too much time, and Nashville cleared the ball. He was active on the defensive side of the ball. He finished with two tackles, two clearances, and one interception.

However, while that game was his best overall performance, I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention Michel’s late game heroics against future champions the Columbus Crew. He only played 20 minutes that night, but he created a moment that will live long in the memory of the Orlando City faithful.

2020 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Benji Michel a solid 6 for his 2020 campaign, which was the same mark he got last year. That’s a good grade for a role player off the bench. It’d be hard to beat out Nani or Chris Mueller for game time on the wings, but when he was called upon, Benji proved to be a good asset for Orlando as he continues to grow as a player.

2021 Outlook

Since Orlando picked up his contract option for 2021, Michel will likely play a similar role in 2021 that he did the past two seasons — providing an attacking threat off the bench — and that is something that seems to suit him. With Mueller and Nani back, as well as Alexander Alvarado and Matheus Aias, Michel will likely remain a bench option next season. He hasn’t yet shown the consistency to be a high-level starter, as he still struggles at times with his first touch and sometimes fades from games. But as a super sub, he’s thrived. He has good pace and goal-scoring instincts, even if some of his technical skills aren’t quite there yet. Hopefully as Michel moves into his third season as a professional, he can take the next step, like Mueller did this past year.


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