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2020 Orlando City Season in Review: Pedro Gallese

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How did El Pulpo do in his first season with Orlando?

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

Orlando City has never had a bad goalkeeper dating all the way back to the old USL days. Miguel Gallardo was one of the best in the lower league, and when the Lions made the jump to MLS, that trend of solid goalkeepers continued. From Tally Hall to Joe Bendik and then Brian Rowe, the ‘keepers were always good, albeit never great. And then came Pedro Gallese.

El Pulpo had his contract with Alianza Lima expire a year ago, and he became a free agent. The Peruvian National Team ‘keeper was on loan from Liga MX side Veracruz to Alianza Lima in Peru. Orlando used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to sign him and he is still under contract for next season.

Statistical Breakdown

Gallese made 24 starts in his first year as a Lion. Those 24 matches included 19 league games, one playoff match, and four starts in the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stages. He only allowed 25 goals, the fewest by any Orlando City keeper who made more than 10 starts since 2013. His 25 goals allowed in 24 games gave him an impressive goals-against average of just 1.04. In just MLS matches, his GAA is slightly higher (1.05), and he tied for fifth in the league for best GAA for goalkeepers who made at least 15 starts.

The Peruvian faced 71 shots in league play and saved 52 of them — a rate of 73.2%. Gallese faced an average of 3.74 shots on target per game. This is higher than Rowe faced in 2019 (3.44). Before that, Orlando City’s defense allowed about 50% more shots per game. The improvement in the defense is a significant reason for Gallese’s success. However, he also has the best save percentage in Orlando’s MLS history (73.2%).

Gallese finished the 2020 MLS season with a record of 11-3-5, with three shutouts. While that is the most wins out of any Orlando ‘keeper in MLS, it is the second-fewest shutouts. Joe Bendik in 2018 only had one.

In the playoffs, Gallese started in one match against New York City FC. He was issued a yellow card in the 103rd minute for time-wasting. Then, he was issued another in the penalty shootout for coming off his line early. The 30-year-old made six saves in the match and allowed just one goal. The lone goal that he allowed was a free header off a corner that he could do nothing about. Many of the saves he made were fantastic saves that lesser ‘keepers would not have made. The best save was the double save he made in the 43rd minute of that playoff game.

Gallese started all of the Lions’ matches in the MLS is Back Tournament knockout games. He made 11 saves and finished with a 2-1-1 record en route to the championship match.

Best Game

Gallese had a few great games in his first year in Orlando. The playoff game was certainly up there, and he got his best grade of the year (8) as well as the Man of the Match. The Lions’ MLS is Back game against LAFC also saw El Pulpo reaching out all his tentacles and coming up clutch late in the match. The fact that two of his best games are in knockout matches speaks volumes about his big-game ability.

I’ll go with Orlando’s 3-1 win over NYCFC in the MLS is Back group stage for his best game. Gallese made six saves — a season-high — and got a grade of 7.5 for the match. Orlando played well in the match and deserved its win. However, there’s no denying that New York City had its chances. The Pigeons had 26 total shots but just put seven on frame. Valentín Castellanos looked destined to score at some point, but Gallese made two fantastic stops. The first chance came in the 45th minute. After a perfect cross, Castellanos was all alone against El Pulpo, but the ‘keeper came up big to deny the volley attempt.

As the game was nearing an end, the Lions held a 2-1 lead. Gallese made a double save in the 77th minute to deny Castellanos again. Orlando then used the momentum and scored its third goal not five minutes later.

2020 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Gallese a composite grade of 7. This is fairly consistent with his season grades, as his average was just under seven. His best grade of the year was an eight in his final match of the season, while his worst was a five in Orlando’s 3-2 loss to Miami on Aug. 22. It was a bad game from Orlando all over the pitch, but Gallese’s one save on four shots did not help. A final grade of 7 is our highest season rating from a starting goalkeeper since Joe Bendik’s 7.5 in 2017 and the fourth highest overall – Bendik had an 8 in 2016 and Hall had an 8 in 2015. Gallese is the most talented goalkeeper that Orlando has ever had. Still, as the team has continued to improve, the Lions do not rely as much on the goalkeeper to be spectacular, which is likely why Bendik and Hall received higher grades.

2021 Outlook

Unless something completely unforeseen occurs, Gallese will be back in purple next season. He will remain the first choice goalkeeper and start every game for Orlando for which he’s available. He will miss some time for Copa America as Peru is certain to call him up for that competition. Gallese was a nominee for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2020. He finished with just 6.86% of the vote. As Orlando City as a whole and El Pulpo individually both continue to improve, Gallese should end up with a higher vote next season.


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