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2021 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Smith had a strong start to 2021, although things tailed off a bit as the season progressed.

SOCCER: AUG 04 MLS - Inter Miami CF at Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 season was Kyle Smith’s third year in the purple of Orlando City after being brought in by former coach James O’Connor when he took the reins back in 2019. Since becoming a Lion, Smith’s hard work, solid play, versatility, and durability have endeared him to both the coaching staff and the fanbase, and he’s become an important part of Orlando’s roster. Let’s take a look at his 2021 season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith played in 27 league games this season, starting 21 of those. He logged a total of 1,792 minutes on the field, the most he has played in a season for Orlando City. He also opened his scoring account for the Lions, getting one goal and notching two assists over the course of the season. He took 14 shots to get that goal, putting five of them on target. He also passed the ball with 81.4% accuracy with 56 long balls, 11 crosses, and nine key passes.

On the defensive side of the ball, Smith ended with 65 tackles, 15 interceptions, 47 clearances, and eight blocks. He committed 18 fouls while being fouled himself six times, and received four yellow cards.

He did not appear in Orlando City’s playoff match and played only three minutes in the Leagues Cup game against Santos Laguna.

Best Game

Smith’s best game of the year happens to be the game that he scored his lone goal of the year. In the 3-2 comeback win over Atlanta United on July 30, Smith shook his man at the penalty spot during a corner and guided a header low inside the far post to level things a few minutes before halftime.

That wasn’t his only contribution of the evening though, as he led the team in both tackles and clearances with three of each, and had the second-most touches on the team, with 66, all while completing 89% of his passes. Our Marcus Mitchell awarded him a grade of 7 for his work on the night, a mark only eclipsed by Nani’s Man of the Match showing and a super-sub shift from Silvester van der Water.

2021 Final Grade

Smith was flat out phenomenal during the first half of the season. He was starting almost every game due to injury struggles from Joao Moutinho and Ruan, and he only seemed to get better the more he played. The return of those two to fitness meant that Smith saw less time on the field in the back third of the season, with Emmanuel Mas becoming the preferred fullback substitution off the bench. Some of his substitute performances later in the year didn’t quite live up to the standard he had set during the first half of the season, and its possible that he’s simply a guy who plays his absolute best when he’s given a run of games. Regardless, the staff here at The Mane Land awarded him a grade of 6.5, up half a point from last year’s mark of 6 and a full point from the 5.5 he received from us in 2019.

2022 Outlook

Smith will be back for a fourth season with Orlando City, as he is still under contract with the team. After the departure of Mas, Smith is currently the third fullback on the depth chart at the club, with Michael Halliday slotting in behind him. It’s likely that someone left-footed will be brought in for depth at the position, but with what Smith has shown through his first three years as a Lion, he will likely remain an important member of OCSC’s rotation.

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