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2022 Orlando City Season in Review: Wilder Cartagena

The defensive midfielder joined Orlando on loan during the summer to give the Lions needed depth.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

On Aug. 2, Peruvian midfielder Wilder Cartagena joined Orlando City on loan for the remainder of the 2022 season, with an option to extend the loan through 2023. The veteran provided needed depth behind Cesar Araujo after Sebas Mendez was traded to LAFC a few weeks prior. He became the second Peruvian player on the roster alongside goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

While Araujo held down the starting spot for Orlando City, Cartagena came off the bench and started here and there to give the 21-year-old some relief during a congested end to the season for the Lions. He also made an appearance with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to help settle in with Orlando.

Let’s dive into how Cartagena did in his first season with the Lions.

Statistical Breakdown

Since he didn’t come to Orlando until August, his only appearance in the U.S. Open Cup was the final on Sept. 7. In that match, Cartagena came on in stoppage time to help ensure the Lions held onto their lead. He completed both of his passes in that match and took a shot that was off target.

Cartagena’s first appearance for the Lions was a brief one, coming on late in Orlando’s 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 13. His first start came a little over a week later on Aug. 21, when the Lions went on the road and beat Charlotte FC, 2-1. During the regular season, he started in four of his eight appearances, playing for 331 minutes. The defensive midfielder finished the season with 16 tackles, five interceptions, and three clearances. Cartagena had 178 passes at a solid 86% success rate and connected on 12 of his 21 long balls. Although he didn’t have a goal or an assist with the first team, he did contribute three key passes. Of his six shots, only one was put on target. However, five of those shots were taken from outside of the box. Apart from a few errant passes, Cartagena took care of the ball when it was at his feet and only had one unsuccessful touch. He won three of his five aerial duels, committed nine fouls while suffering three, and was shown two yellow cards.

Cartagena also made a single appearance for Orlando City B, starting in the team’s 5-2 win over Rochester New York FC. In 64 minutes of action, he completed 80% of his 30 passes and scored in the second half with his lone shot of the match. Jake Mulraney delivered a nice ball to the back post on a free kick and Cartagena was able to head it home to give Orlando a 3-1 lead.

Best Game

Cartagena’s best outing came on Sept. 17 in Orlando City’s dominant 4-0 win against Toronto FC. Filling in for Araujo, he played a season-high 85 minutes and helped slow down a talented Toronto offense that had scored multiple goals in the four prior matches. Cartagena led the team with four tackles and also added a pair of interceptions. He completed all but three of his 43 passes for a team-high 93% success rate, had two key passes, and was accurate on five of his seven long balls. His lone shot was a weak one from distance that went wide, but it was otherwise a very strong performance from the Peruvian against a desperate Toronto team. Cartagena quietly served as the team’s backbone in the midfield to let Orlando’s offense run rampant, receiving a solid 6.5 rating for his efforts in our player grades.

2022 Final Grade

In his first year in Orlando, Cartagena didn’t spend enough time on the field to receive a grade. That has less to do with his performance and more to do with Araujo’s stranglehold on the position. His 331 minutes were only 81 fewer than Mendez’s for Orlando during the 2022 regular season. While Cartagena was efficient when on the ball and solid defensively, there were a few misplayed balls forward that will only be ironed out of his game with more time playing with his teammates. While he wasn’t brought in to score goals, his game will improve if he can reliably put his shots from distance on frame. A preseason learning the tendencies of his teammates and Oscar Pareja’s system will only help him should he stay in Orlando.

2023 Outlook

It makes plenty of sense for the Lions to extend the 28-year-old’s option through the 2023 season. Even if Andres Perea and Joey DeZart both stay in Orlando, neither are likely to overtake his spot in the midfield’s depth chart. The club could go out and add some depth at the position during the off-season, but Cartagena did well enough in his first year with the Lions to warrant staying another year. That being said, he’s a bit of a journeyman and has never played more than two seasons with the same club.

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