In honor of SBNation’s Underdog Week, I decided to look at some of the most underrated players (or the underdogs, if you will) in Orlando City’s Major League Soccer history. Since Orlando is still a relatively new top-tier team, the list is pretty small. Players made the list for different reasons. Some players’ on-field contributions did not match up with their statistics, while others are disliked by many fans but were essential members of the team. The players are not listed in any particular order.
Johnson will always be remembered by Orlando City fans for just one play. When I talk with fans, some have valid points on this play, others, well, do not. In his three years in Orlando, Johnson was one of the most underrated players on the team.
From his versatility in doing the dirty work to his occasional goal or assist, there is a reason why Johnson played in 75 games in three seasons. Johnson is a defensive midfielder who was forced into multiple roles and positions. The most bizarre was in 2018 when he was forced to play right back. RJ Allen and Scott Sutter were both injured, and Johnson stepped in and played like a natural.
The defensive midfielder was never the best in front of net. He scored just four goals and provided five assists. It is his defensive work that was often overlooked, though. He was a player that was willing to do the dirty work, get stuck in on challenges, and do everything he could to stop the opposition in their tracks. Johnson ended up with 15 yellow cards with Orlando, tied for third behind Dom Dwyer’s 16 and Cristian Higuita’s 38.
While Johnson is remembered for a poor play, Grinwis’ story is the exact opposite. He was the hero of the Lions’ 2019 U.S. Open Cup run and is remembered for his penalty kick saves in The Running of the Wall game. But Grinwis did so much more than just stop a few spot-kicks.
Grinwis spent most of his time on the bench as a backup keeper for two seasons. He started five games in 2018 and allowed six goals, made 14 saves, kept one clean sheet, and had a record of 1-3-1. While those numbers don’t seem superb, he had the best goals-against average on the team, and just as many clean sheets as Joe Bendik — and Grinwis played in 20 fewer matches. After his impressive performances, it would not have been a shock if he started ahead of Bendik.
The following year, Grinwis did not play in any MLS matches. Instead, he was strictly the Lions’ goalkeeper for the cup games. He started in all four of those games and had 13 saves. Grinwis showed his athleticism throughout the run, and once again he put up an argument to start ahead of Bendik.
Nowadays, Chris Mueller is known as Orlando’s super sub, but Baptista is really the greatest super sub in Orlando City’s MLS history so far. He started in just five games and managed 729 minutes for the Lions. And yet, he still managed six goals and three assists. That equates to him being directly involved in a goal every 81 minutes he was on the field. He also started in one U.S. Open Cup match and provided an assist.
The Lions signed Baptista right before the 2016 season and cut him after the same year. He brought depth and experience to Orlando’s offense, which at that time relied almost exclusively on Kaká and Cyle Larin. He had one of the best goals-per-90-minutes rates in the league and an impressive passing accuracy for a striker.
Noce is someone who could easily be forgotten when looking back at Orlando’s history. He had one goal and no assists in 52 games for the Lions. He had a big resume when he came to Orlando, but it seemed like it could have been another case of a player coming to MLS to retire.
That trend continued for most of 2016. His stats were poor, and they did not really improve the following season. However, Nocerino became more comfortable, and his play improved. He did an excellent job of winning the ball back and breaking up opposition attacks. Furthermore, he brought leadership to the club that was only matched by Kaká. He was there for many of the young players, and was a “leader by example.” He continues that leadership today. The club announced in January that Nocerino joined the club’s development academy as a coach.
Who is the most underrated player in Orlando City’s MLS history?
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