Orlando City entered the off-season looking to solidify some depth in the attacking midfield — specifically on the wing — and, as a result, signed Dutch winger Silvester van der Water on Feb. 23 to a three-year contract with an option year. He came over from Heracles Almelo of the Eredivisie, the Dutch top flight.
It was a bit of a mixed first MLS season for van der Water, who suffered some knocks early in the season and took a while to get acclimated to the culture and the league. But right from the jump, fans could see glimpses of the kinds of skills van der Water brought with him to Orlando.
Let’s take a look back at his first season as a Lion.
Van der Water made his debut off the bench in the season opener April 17 against Atlanta United and finished the year with 27 appearances (12 starts), logging a total of 973 minutes in the regular season. He scored three goals and added three assists on 27 shots, getting eight of those on target. Two of his assists were primary helpers, with one secondary (or “hockey”) assist. He was offside three times, passed at a 74.8% rate and suplied 20 key passes and 17 accurate crosses.
Defensively, van der Water had 18 successful tackles, one clearance, and seven interceptions. He committed six fouls while drawing 14, receiving one yellow card.
He also appeared in Orlando’s playoff match at Nashville, subbing on in stoppage time and touching the ball four times, completing one of his two passes (a key pass on an accurate cross to Daryl Dike), but registering no shots, defensive, or disciplinary stats.
The Dutch winger’s best game came in a relatively short outing. He was introduced in the 74th minute on July 30 against Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium and turned the game around for Orlando City in an eventual 3-2 win. Trailing 2-1, van der Water had only been on the pitch for five minutes when Mauricio Pereyra sent a ball over the top on the left for Benji Michel. The Homegrown winger headed it across the box and into the path of van der Water, who ducked low and headed past Alec Kann for his second goal as a Lion, tying the game at 2-2 in the 79th minute.
Eight minutes later, van der Water set up the winning goal. Setting up in his office near the right corner of the box, van der Water fizzed a dangerous cross into the area. Nani timed his run well, beat his defender, and headed home the winner off van der Water’s assist.
NANI FOR THE WIN!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 31, 2021
What a finish in Orlando. pic.twitter.com/ieqvfOmYVs
Van der Water maximized his seven touches in the match, directly involving himself in the tying and winning goals. He completed both of his pass attempts. He also drew a free kick from Atlanta. He didn’t register any defensive statistics, but he was on the pitch to help spark an Orlando comeback and he did just that.
2021 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave van der Water a composite rating of 6 on our 10-point scale. The Dutchman showed flashes of skill, particularly with his gifted left foot. However, the performances were inconsistent and at times he refused to rely on moves that required him to use his weaker right foot, making him much easier to mark. Once teams started cheating toward the middle of the field and forcing him to use the wide channel down the right, he stopped being effective. When the defense played him that way, he would often try to take on multiple players and lose the ball, or end up passing all the way back to the center backs. As a result, van der Water did not score a goal or assist on one over his final 10 regular-season appearances or in the playoff game.
Using the width on the right when he can’t cut back on his left foot is an area of his game that requires more development in order for him to maximize his time on the field. It is especially important when Ruan isn’t on the field to provide consistent overlapping runs.
With his multi-year deal, van der Water has plenty of time to live up to his contract. The 25-year-old made $325,750 in guaranteed money in his first season in Orlando according to the MLS Players Association. He remains under contract and could see an increased role in 2022 after the departure of Chris Mueller to Scotland. However, Orlando City must address wing depth again after losing Mueller and declining Nani’s option year. If van der Water is going to become a regular starter, he may need to switch to the left side or he’ll have to become more proficient with, and trusting of, his weaker foot.