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Dom Dwyer’s Aggressive Play Earns Criticism

Dom Dwyer has always played with an edge to his game and that style has drawn criticism.

MLS is Back Tournamnet: Inter Miami vs. Orlando Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

When most players play aggressively, they receive the benefit of the doubt if someone gets injured. After all, most players are not trying to hurt anyone while they play. But when a player builds a reputation for aggressiveness, it can cause them to lose the benefit of the doubt. That was seen Wednesday night with Orlando City forward Dom Dwyer.

In the 51st minute, Antonio Carlos sent a long ball toward the midfield. Dwyer went up for the ball with Inter Miami defender Andres Reyes. The two players battled for position and Reyes ended up flat on his back and remained down for about six minutes. Replays showed that Dwyer’s arm had caught Reyes in the throat, making it difficult for him to breathe.

In most cases, this would’ve been seen as an accident. Players going up aggressively for balls happens frequently and sometimes a hand, arm, or elbow will end up hitting someone in the face or chest. Rarely is this seen as an intentional act, especially since most players wouldn’t even think about it while going after a 50-50 ball. But that’s not some viewed Dwyer’s play.

Regardless of how you feel about the Orlando City striker, he’s developed a poor reputation for many people over the past few years. A play that’s frequently brought up occurred in 2018 between Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls. Dwyer made contact with Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, now with Inter Miami, resulting in the equalizing goal. While the referee decided it was incidental, many determined that Dwyer made contact on purpose.

Just last year, Dwyer was sent off for a similar incident in which he elbowed the Columbus Crew’s Josh Williams going up for a goal kick. In that incident, Dwyer’s elbow flew up and hit Williams in the eye. Referee Dave Gantar immediately displayed the red card to Dwyer for the flying elbow. These incidents have been used by many fans as examples as to why they feel Dwyer is a dirty player.

That opinion was widely shared by those not supporting Orlando City Wednesday night. While neither Jon Champion or Taylor Twellman, the ESPN announcers for the game, seemed to think it was a dirty play by the Lions’ striker, plenty of national writers and pundits disagreed.

The difference between the play last Wednesday and the elbow on Williams was that Dwyer clearly cocked the elbow and swung it against the Crew player and got a deserved card, whereas the play against Reyes the arm was extended fully and appeared more an attempt to hold off the defender — a typical movement by any striker on every aerial ball.

Many attribute Dwyer’s reputation as a dirty player to using his elbows when going up for balls, but that’s not the only criticism he’s received. Critics also point out that Dwyer has made a habit of going down easily, especially when inside the box. These two aspects of Dwyer’s game have made him one of the more disliked players for many who follow the league.

In Dwyer’s defense, Robles didn’t seem to think the play Wednesday night was dirty.

“I don’t even blame Dom,” the goalkeeper said after the game. “That’s just the way he plays. I respect the way he plays. That’s why he’s been so successful.”

Since Dwyer returned to Orlando in 2017, he’s developed a reputation for being a dirty player. This is due to his flying elbows and tendency to go down easily. When it comes to the perception of the national media and fans, it’s clear that he’s lost any benefit of the doubt with some of them.