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2021 Orlando City Season in Review: Pedro Gallese

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He missed time on international duty and the injured list, but El Pulpo again delivered when in goal for the Lions.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Philadelphia Union John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Pedro Gallese finished his second season in goal with Orlando City and was again a key piece of the puzzle for Oscar Pareja, taking care of every shot a goalkeeper should reasonably be expected to stop. Orlando used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to sign him on Jan. 17, 2020 and he’s solidified the goalkeeping position in his two years as a Lion.

Let’s look back on his 2021 MLS campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

The Lima, Peru native appeared in 22 matches for Orlando City (all starts) and amassed 1,980 minutes — all career highs during his time in Orlando due in part to the pandemic shortening the 2020 season. An injury suffered against New York City FC and duty with the Peruvian National Team cost him a total of 12 matches in 2021, but stand-ins Brandon Austin, Mason Stajduhar, and Adam Grinwis were able to spell him.

He allowed 30 goals and made 68 saves on the season, recording a save percentage of 68% for all shots on target. He stopped one of the three penalty shots he faced and kept seven clean sheets. His passing rate improved from 72.3% a year ago to 74.5% this season. He added nine clearances.

Gallese started and played all 90 minutes in the Lions’ playoff game at Nashville, allowing three goals and stopping three shots on target from the hosts. He passed at an 87% rate in the match.

He did not appear in Orlando’s Leagues Cup match against Santos Laguna due to the injury he sustained against NYCFC.

Best Game

Gallese had a number of excellent games in 2021 but truthfully most of his clean sheets were fairly easy ones as the defense did a good job of limiting opposition chances in those games. He only had to make four total saves in his first three clean sheets of the year.

His best clean sheet performance came in his fourth shutout of the year, which took place in a 1-0 home win against Toronto FC on May 22. Gallese faced 19 total shot attempts on the night, which was the second most he saw all season — trailing only the 23 that New York City FC peppered him with at Yankee Stadium in a 5-0 Orlando loss on July 25. His five saves in the match were the most he had in any of his seven clean sheets. However, there was only one truly difficult save in that game due to a deflection and he got himself in trouble twice by getting caught out of goal, needing his defense to clear a dangerous cross and a clearance off the line by Rodrigo Schlegel to preserve the shutout.

Instead, I’m going with the home finale against Nashville SC on Oct. 31, which ended in a 1-1 draw, although Orlando City was robbed of a 2-1 win on the flimsiest overturned goal in the Lions’ history. The perplexing decision by match referee Allen Chapman prevented the Lions from clinching a playoff spot that day and ended up being the biggest talking point.

El Pulpo stopped seven of Nashville’s eight shots on target in the match, and his seven saves were the second-most he made in a game all season. The one goal allowed was on a perfect shot by Hany Mukhtar just inside the far post that he could do little about. Gallese was sharp throughout, including a save on a 10th-minute header from Walker Zimmerman on a set piece. His 87.5% save percentage was his highest all season in a non-shutout and he also passed at an 81% rate on 21 total attempts.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Gallese a composite score of 8 for the 2021 MLS season, which is a full point better than his score of 7 in 2020. All of the staff grades were in the 7.5 to 8 range and his individual game grades generally only suffered due to a lack of shots faced rather than poor play. In one or two games Gallese got caught out to the side of his goal and there are times every once in a while where he doesn’t handle a cross as cleanly as you’d like, but he’s been an incredibly dependable shot stopper and you rarely see him allow a goal on a shot he can get a hand to. He simply doesn’t allow soft goals and regardless of how many different back lines he plays behind during the course of the season, the communication is generally quite good. His seven clean sheets in 2021 (and 10 in his two seasons as a Lion) were due largely to that communication and organization.

2022 Outlook

Gallese remains under contract for the 2022 MLS season and whenever he’s fit and in Orlando he will be the presumed starter, with the possible exception of early U.S. Open Cup matches. If Gallese can manage four clean sheets in 2022, he will break Joe Bendik’s career club record of 13. With his full back line slated to return next season, that seems like a mark that should fall. Some of our readers have questioned whether the club should use an international slot on a goalkeeper and I will always answer that if that keeper is as good as Gallese, then the answer is yes, absolutely.


Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)