The 2019 MLS season was a difficult one for forward Dom Dwyer. Entering the season as the team’s number nine, Dwyer got off to a hot start, scoring three goals in the first five games. His struggles started soon after though, and he ended the season with just seven goals.
Dwyer joined Orlando City in 2017 to great fanfare. This popularity was because of the striker’s loan stint with the club during the 2013 USL Pro season, in which he scored 15 goals in 13 league games and another four in the USL Championship Game. He further secured his popularity by leading the team in 2018 with 13 goals.
But Dwyer couldn’t seem to get back on track. As the 2019 season wore on, the lack of production — even from seemingly easy finishes — caused great frustration all around. Fans and media were critical of his performances and it appeared to get to the 29-year-old. Dwyer spent more time on the ground claiming to have been fouled than attacking the box.
As Orlando City started its 2020 preseason, fans were anxious to see how Dwyer would respond. Would his frustration from last year continue or would he have a renewed energy after the club brought in a new coaching staff, offering him a fresh start? It seems as though they got their answer Saturday night.
Other than a January scrimmage against Stetson University that was only open to 200 season ticket holders, Saturday night’s preseason friendly against the Montreal Impact was the first time Dwyer played publicly in 2020. If his performance in that game is any indication, he’s gotten his mind right for the new campaign.
Starting the game up top, Dwyer was full of energy and enthusiasm as he chased down defenders and attacked the goal. Other than a brief situation late in the first half, Dwyer didn’t challenge the referee as he had in frustration during much of the previous season.
Dwyer isn’t a player who is going to create much on his own. His primary attributes are his aggression, persistence, and being in the right place at the right time. While his goals might not be the most spectacular, using these assets to his advantage has made him successful for much of his MLS career.
While Dwyer didn’t get on the score sheet in this game, he came close twice in the first half. In the 19th minute, Dwyer attempted an ambitious bicycle kick off a long, high cross. He missed the ball, but it was the type of attempt Orlando City fans didn’t see in his frustrating finish to 2019. He nearly scored again in the 28th minute after a low Ruan cross found the foot of Dwyer in front of the near post. The striker got his right foot to the ball, but pushed it just wide of goal.
In his 55 minutes on the field Saturday night, Dwyer showed a style of play that was missing much of last season. It’s the attitude that made him successful and one of the most popular Lions of all time. Orlando City fans want Dwyer to succeed for the club and continue to build his legacy. Saturday night’s performance was a good indication that he might do just that.