Last week, I took a look at some Orlando City players that didn’t live up to the hype, the salary, or both. Now, I’m switching gears and taking a look at those surprise gems that came in and played above and beyond any expectations. Here are three players who may have surprised us once they arrived.
With the departure of Joe Bendik and Earl Edwards Jr., Orlando needed help in goal heading into the 2019 season. Brian Rowe had been with the LA Galaxy for several years, even earning the starting position in 2016. It didn’t last, and he went to the Vancouver Whitecaps as a backup in 2018 on a one-year contract. That led to him coming on as a trialist with the Lions in 2019. Despite not being a highly coveted acquisition, Rowe not only signed with Orlando City, but earned the starting job and started in all 32 of the matches he played. He made 110 saves on 160 shots on goal, allowing 49 goals. He was seventh in saves in Major League Soccer for 2019 and was a big part of Orlando City’s defensive turnaround from the horrible goals allowed record set in the 2018 season. While he wasn’t the keeper Orlando City fans wanted he certainly played above expectations when you look at the results.
Scott Sutter signed with Orlando City in the off-season prior to the 2017 campaign. While Sutter was a veteran with experience in the Swiss Super League, UEFA Champions League, and UEFA Europa League, he still wasn’t considered a flashy signing. Despite the lack of fanfare, the right back did go on to become a fan favorite. In 2017, Sutter played in 32 matches, starting in 30. His 2,729 minutes ranked second on the team, plus he scored one goal and added four assists. Additionally, he came into Orlando City’s season having just finished a season in Switzerland with BSC Young Boys. He never really had a break yet he was a consistent contributor. In 2018, he started out well before missing 10 games due to injury. Despite only playing in 19 games, with 18 starts, he contributed three goals and two assists. He never gave less than 100% when he was on the pitch, and while he is no longer with the club, it’s obvious he still has love for Orlando City.
It’s been just over a year since Orlando City signed Jansson, but it feels like much longer in a good way. He was the last signing of the off-season, and he wasn’t very well known. As Michael Citro put it in our introduction to the “Beefy Swede”:
“...Jansson will provide another solid option at center back and he’s coming here with an eye on earning a starting position.”
Players who are expected to make big impacts for a club are not described as having to earn a starting position. We all know the horseshoe factory to Swedish Division 1 AIK fairy tale story, so it’s safe to say no one expected much of Jansson when he arrived. Boy, did he prove us wrong. Jansson made 28 appearances in 2019, and each and every one was a start. He and Lamine Sané teamed up to be the best center back pairing to date in Orlando City history. He also won over the hearts of Orlando City fans with his gutsy performances like Orlando’s 2-0 win at Columbus. The man put it all on the line, including his body, over and over again. Despite being with the club for a little over one season, he made it to the Sweet 16 of The Mane Land Bracketology, defeating Pedro Gallese and Mauricio Pereyra before falling to Nani. I think that says a lot.
There you have it. Don’t like my choices? Feel I left out another diamond in the rough? Let me know in the comments below.