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2021 Orlando City Season in Review: Daryl Dike

Despite missing time to a loan, international duty, and an injury, the young striker still left his mark on the Lions’ attack.

MLS: New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Daryl Dike completed his second season with Orlando City in 2021. Dike had a breakout rookie season after being drafted No. 5 overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. He started out the 2021 season on loan at Barnsley in the English Championship, but returned to lead the Orlando City attack.

Following the loan, international duty, and a shoulder injury, Dike found his footing back with the team, and the University of Virginia product showed how valuable he is to this club and why his talent has opened eyes in Europe this year.

Here’s a look back on his 2021 MLS performance.

Statistical Breakdown

The young American international appeared in 18 matches (15 starts) for Orlando City and played a career high of 1,325 minutes for the club. Dike scored 10 goals and added three assists on the year, firing 33 shots, with 15 on target.

He passed at a 72.1% success rate with seven key passes on the year. Defensively, he finished with six tackles, 11 clearances, and two blocks. He committed 15 fouls and drew 41 from the opposition as defenders struggled to deal with his size and strength and fullbacks opted to chop him down rather than let him get down the flanks. He was not booked in 2021.

Dike started and played the whole 90 minutes in the playoff game at Nashville for the Lions, scoring Orlando City’s lone goal. He had two shots in the match (one on target) and passed at a 66.7% for the match. He did not register any defensive statistics and drew two fouls from the opposition without committing one.

He did not appear in the League Cup match against Santos Laguna for Orlando City as he was still dealing with the shoulder injury that persisted on his return from the Gold Cup competition with the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Best Game

Upon finally playing regular minutes after his injury was behind him, Dike had many games where he made an impact and was a focal point for the Lions’ attack. Dike’s best match was his only multi-goal game of the season, which came in a 5-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes on June 22. This game was also special for Dike as it was his first game back on loan from Barnsley and reminded City fans why we missed him during his absence.

Orlando was already up 2-0 when Dike’s first goal came at the 31-minute mark. Nani played a perfectly placed trough ball past the defense and Dike ran in behind his defender to receive the ball, pushing it past oncoming goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski and slotting it into the low corner of the net.

Nani again assisted on Dike’s second goal, this time from a free kick. The captain delivered a good cross on the set piece and Dike timed his run well and headed it past Marcinkowski in the 49th minute.

In addition to his brace, Dike registered five shots, with three on target — both were season highs. He played 71 minutes, drew three free kicks (committing only one foul), and completed 10 of his 15 pass attempts.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Dike a composite rating of 8 out of 10, a full point improvement from the score of 7 he received last year. The Oklahoma native was crucial to the Orlando City attack and he was sorely needed after Alexandre Pato went down for nearly all of the season, which left Tesho Akindele was the only true striker option Orlando had left to put up top. Dike’s deceptive speed and physical presence allowed him to beat defenders one on one and his height and timing made him a dangerous aerial threat. His performance in 2021 showed why he is always a candidate to be called up for the USMNT and why clubs in Europe are interested in making him part of their squad.

2022 Outlook

Orlando City exercised its 2022 option on Dike at the end of the 2021 season, putting him under contract for the upcoming MLS season. That doesn’t guarantee he’ll be wearing purple in 2022. He could be sold this off-season, and if he isn’t, the Lions would be smart to try to sign him to a new contract. Should he play for Orlando in 2022, Dike will be the first-choice striker whenever healthy and he would be likely to again reach double digits in goals. He is a difficult player for MLS defenders to handle and he’s only getting better each year.

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