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2020 Orlando City Season in Review: Dom Dwyer

The DP striker’s anticipated comeback year was cut short by a knee injury.

Orlando City SC v New York City FC - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Much was expected when Orlando City acquired striker Dom Dwyer from Sporting Kansas City on July 25, 2017. After all, the price was high — $400,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), $500,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), and up to $700,000 in additional allocation money depending on meeting select performance targets. But the overwhelming feeling in 2017 was that it would be good for Dwyer to come “home” to the site where he’d seen so much success at the USL level and helped bring a championship to Orlando.

Some were worried the price was too high, as Dwyer’s contract was about to expire. However, Orlando City had already been working on that at the time of the deal, and the Cuckfield, England native signed a three-year extension with Orlando City on Jan. 3, 2018, occupying a Designated Player spot.

The results were mixed since then, with an All-Star Game appearance, a slight injury, and an acclimation period slowing his integration to the Lions near the end of the 2017 season. His 2018 season was a good one, even if revisionists try to insist that he has never had a good season in Orlando. His 13 goals in 26 games in 2018 is a good record for an MLS striker. Is it elite? Certainly not. Is it great? Eh, not really. But is it good? Absolutely. When one considers that was more than a quarter of the team’s total goals scored that season, it’s perhaps unreasonable to have expected more from the starting striker on a team that struggled to create much offensively.

But a dip in form in 2019 and more aggravating soft tissue injuries soured some Orlando City fans on the mercurial striker, who suddenly seemed to realize that Dwyer has always had a tendency throughout his career to spend a lot of energy antagonizing opponents, lobbying for calls — both deserved and not — and, most maddening of all, missing sitters. It wasn’t a new or different Dwyer, it was just recency bias creeping in, although 2019 was a notable ongoing struggle for the forward to find his form.

The grades since his arrival reflect Dwyer’s up-and-down performances. The Mane Land gave Dwyer a rating of 6.5 out of 10 for 2017, as it took him about half a dozen games to settle in and start performing. That was followed by a 7 from our staff in 2018 — his best season as an MLS Lion. His 2019 dip in form was noteworthy and we gave him a rating of 5 for the season.

The 2020 season was supposed to be his bounce-back year under new coach Oscar Pareja. So, how did Dwyer perform in what was potentially his final season ever in purple?

Statistical Breakdown

Unfortunately, injuries derailed Dwyer’s 2020 season from the start. He missed the team’s first couple of games before the pandemic shutdown with another nagging soft tissue injury. Then, after getting into the action in the MLS is Back group stage, things got more serious, with a knee injury requiring surgery, ending his season after only two matches.

Dwyer made two appearances (both starts) in 2020, playing a total of just 124 minutes, with the team going 2-0-0 and out-scoring opponents 5-2 in those matches. He didn’t score a goal, but did assist on one, and attempted one shot. He was called for seven fouls, earning one free kick and was offside once. He passed at a 71.4% rate with one chance created. Defensively, he chipped in a tackle, an interception, a clearance, and a block.

He was held out of the last group stage match of the MLS is Back and eventually left the bubble to get an MRI on his knee. That scan revealed a torn patella tendon, which required surgery, and his season effectively came to an end after that announcement on Aug. 1 with the recovery period given as four to six months.

Best Game

Dwyer’s best match of the two was his second of the season, which was a 3-1 win over New York City FC in the MLS is Back Tournament on July 14. He helped Chris Mueller complete the fastest brace in Orlando City history with an assist in the 10th minute. Dwyer took a cross from Ruan and headed back across goal for Mueller to finish, making it 2-0 at the time.

Against NYCFC, Dwyer completed nine of his 10 passes for a 90% success rate, including his one key pass to Mueller. He didn’t have a shot in the match, but his movement helped create space and he was tidy with the ball, only being dispossessed once. He won one aerial, blocked a shot, and had one interception on the night. He earned Orlando one free kick in the match.

He was subbed out after 60 minutes after picking up a knock — likely the injury that ended his season. Our Guilherme Torres gave him just a 5 for the performance, but WhoScored gave him a 7 and I’d personally rate him right in the middle of those two marks.

2020 Final Grade

Given his limited games and minutes played, The Mane Land staff has to give Dwyer an incomplete grade for what appears to be his final season with the club. We’ll never know if playing under Pareja and with creative players like Mauricio Pereyra and an improved Mueller would have helped him regain his form and his confidence in 2020.

2021 Outlook

Dwyer is exploring free agency this off-season. It’s difficult to imagine him being back in purple without him taking a major pay cut and a reduced role. It will be interesting to see where he ends up signing and how he responds after spending the bulk of the 2020 season recovering from surgery.

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