Austrian striker Ercan Kara signed with Orlando City as a Designated Player on Jan. 27 to a multi-year deal and spent his first season with the Lions this past season. He replaced extremely popular MLS SuperDraft selection Daryl Dike as the club’s primary striker. It was never going to be an easy task measuring up to the imposing player who was sold to English side West Bromwich Albion last off-season and it was unfair for anyone to expect that to be the case. Our story about Kara’s signing even brashly stated in the dek that “The Lions have found their replacement for Daryl Dike.”
The 26-year-old came into a new team in a new country and began well in the preseason matches, but he sustained an injury that took away valuable time learning both his teammates’ tendencies, and Oscar Pareja’s system. He sustained a couple of other minor knocks along the way in 2022 but fought through them. He put up good numbers but, for some vocal fans, was blamed despite a dearth of service at times throughout the year.
Let’s take a look at Kara’s first season in Orlando.
Kara played in four of Orlando City’s six U.S. Open Cup matches (three starts), logging 323 minutes — that includes all 120 minutes against Nashville SC. He scored one goal in open play in the tournament and twice in penalty shootouts to help the Lions get past Inter Miami and Nashville, attempting eight shots with two on target. He completed 80.9% of his passing attempts with two key passes and three successful long balls. He finished the tournament with one interceptions, committing 11 fouls and drawing two, and did not receive a booking.
In the regular season, Kara appeared in 29 of Orlando City’s 34 matches (22 starts), logging 1,789 minutes. He led Orlando City in goals (11), giving the Lions a double-digit goal scorer in all of the club’s first eight seasons — something no team had previously done. He was the only Lion to reach double digit goals in the MLS regular season, firing 48 shots and getting 19 of them on target. His percentage of shot attempts that were on target (39.6%), overall shooting percentage (22.9%), and on-target finishing rate (57.9%) were all quite good. His passing rate of 68.1% could use some improvement, but he’s often receiving the ball in the most difficult areas of the pitch to complete them and early in the season he clearly wasn’t on the same page as some of his teammates (by way of comparison, Dike’s passing rate in 2020 was 71% and in 2021 it was 72.1%). Kara notched three assists on 14 key passes and completed two long balls. Defensively, he contributed 11 tackles, one interception, 21 clearances, and two blocks. He committed 31 fouls, suffered 24, and was booked twice.
Kara started and played the full 90 minutes in Orlando City’s lone playoff match this season, attempting one shot (off target), and he did not score or assist on a goal. He completed 76.9% of his 13 passing attempts but did not have a key pass, winning three aerials. He contributed one interception, committed two fouls while winning two, and was not booked.
Kara’s best match came in Orlando City’s 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on June 18. The Austrian notched his first MLS brace, and while it’s true he didn’t know much about the second one, which deflected in off of him on Mauricio Pereyra’s shot, he still had a strong match overall.
In the 25th minute, Kara got on the end of a great passing sequence that included all three of Orlando City’s Designated Players, putting the final touch on it to put the Lions up 1-0.
Ercan Kara is there to finish off this great team move for #OrlandoCity. pic.twitter.com/g1y6ZkBDYZ— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 19, 2022
The striker nearly doubled the lead on a free kick but forced a great diving stop by Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark. He then (officially) doubled the lead early in the second half when Pereyra’s shot deflected in off of him. Kara fired five shot attempts — tied for his second-best, single-game shot total on the season — and put a season-high four of those shots on target. He also completed 75% of his passes and contributed two tackles and a clearance. It was a strong performance in a run of them for Kara, who was in the midst of scoring five goals in a six-game span.
2022 Final Grade
The Mane Land gives Kara a composite rating of 7.5 out of 10 for his first year in MLS. This is going to seem high to those who feel like a DP striker should score 15 or more goals, but for any striker to score double-digit goals in Pareja’s system is cause for celebration if you look back at his teams historically. If you look at Kara’s numbers in his minutes played vs. other teams’ top scorers (like I did recently), his production rate stands up well. Orlando City was a team that faced some offensive challenges in many respects in 2022. Dropping Pereyra deeper in the middle of the season helped open some things up but the left side produced little threat until Ivan Angulo’s arrival and crossing in from the wide areas was an issue all year, and the loss of Robin Jansson over the season’s final months limited the opportunities for Kara to split defenders and actually receive a directly played ball. All things considered, Kara did well to put up the numbers he did.
Kara’s deal runs through 2024 and the Lions have contract option years for him in both 2025 and 2026. Kara may not have impressed some Orlando City fans, but he finished well when given opportunities and was the club’s most confident penalty taker. Kara now has a year of MLS under his belt, which is no small matter. Many players come to MLS and take a year (sometimes more) to fully acclimate to the league, the travel, playing in various climates and time zones, etc. We expect Kara to be back and to produce another double-digit goal season.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
- Jack Lynn (10/21/22)
- Joey DeZart (10/22/22)
- Nicholas Gioacchini (10/24/22)
- Thomas Williams (10/24/22)
- Michael Halliday (10/26/22)
- Tesho Akindele (10/28/22)
- Mason Stajduhar (10/29/22)
- Ivan Angulo (10/30/22)
- Jake Mulraney (10/31/22)
- Andrés Perea (11/1/22)
- Kyle Smith (11/2/22)
- Wilder Cartagena (11/3/22)
- Benji Michel (11/4/22)
- Alexandre Pato (11/5/22)
- Ruan (11/6/22)
- Rodrigo Schlegel (11/7/22)
- Cesar Araujo (11/8/22)
- Robin Jansson (11/9/22)
- Antonio Carlos (11/9/22)
- Junior Urso (11/10/22)
- Pedro Gallese (11/11/22)
- Joao Moutinho (11/13/22)
- Mauricio Pereyra (11/14/22)