Orlando City signed midfielder Raul Aguilera Jr. as the club’s 10th ever Homegrown Player just days before the 2021 season started. Aguilera was 21 years old when he inked his Homegrown deal on April 5. and despite the position having perhaps more depth than ever, the academy product from Sanford still saw the field in a depth role this past season.
Let’s take a look at his first season with the Lions.
Aguilera made three appearances in 2021, all off the bench and all in the regular season, logging a total of 92 minutes on the pitch. He made his MLS debut on Aug. 21 — just 19 days past his 22nd birthday, coming on late to help see out a 1-0 home win over the Chicago Fire. He did not record a goal, an assist, or a shot attempt in his time on the field, but completed 54 of his 60 pass attempts for an impressive 90% accuracy. Defensively, he chipped in two interceptions and three clearances. He committed three fouls on the season, suffered two, and picked up one yellow card.
In his first two appearances, Aguilera went just five minutes against Chicago and 17 minutes in a 0-0 draw against Inter Miami. So I’ll say his best game came in a 3-1 loss at the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 19, when he logged his season high (and career high to date) 70 minutes. Aguilera subbed on for the injured Joey DeZart under tough conditions on the road. He passed at an 85% rate, won two fouls, committed two fouls, recorded both of his interceptions on the season, and made one clearance. He was also accurate on both of his long ball attempts in the match.
2021 Final Grade
Because Aguilera did not play enough minutes to qualify for a grade this season, The Mane Land staff gave him a grade of incomplete for 2021. The academy product wasn’t called on often, but seemed to hold his own when he did. His inexperience showed at times but his overall play was fine. Inter Miami wasn’t able to exploit him in a tight game on Aug. 27 and with Andres Perea suspended for the Philly game, Aguilera got his opportunity to step in and play meaningful minutes, albeit in a loss.
Aguilera’s contract includes option years for 2022, 2023, and 2024. Barring something unforeseen, the former University of North Carolina player should return to the roster next season. Even though their could be some turnover in the central midfield, Aguilera is young and as an academy product he’ll be given every opportunity to develop. However, he’s unlikely to become a starter in 2022, although he could see more minutes as a depth player.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
- Alexander Alvarado (11/26/21)