As we count down to the new year of 2023 — which will be Orlando City’s ninth in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s eighth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2022, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year as selected by The Mane Land staff via vote.
Our No. 9 “moment” of the 2022 calendar year has its roots in late 2021, when rumors started to swirl about Orlando City’s interest in Peñarol forward Facundo Torres. Those rumors became reality when the Lions signed Torres on Jan. 24 to a a four-year contract through 2025, with a club option for the 2026 season.
The signing was a club record as Orlando City paid somewhere between $7.5 million and $10 million, depending on what outlet was doing the reporting.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, however, multiple South American outlets have long reported a pricetag of $10 million plus a $2 million signing bonus for 70% of Torres’ rights (meaning if Orlando City sells him on, Peñarol would receive 30% of the fee). The Orlando Sentinel reported Friday that the cost was “only” $7.5 million, which is still an OCSC club record transfer fee, plus $1.5 million in bonuses for 100% of Torres’ rights. But, curiously, the Sentinel also reported that Penarol would receive a bonus for any future sale, which hardly sounds like “100%” of the player’s rights, although that may just be a matter of semantics.
The Young Designated Player started a bit slowly with his new team, notching one goal and one assist in his first five MLS matches. His quality started to show after his initial five outings, however, as he posted three assists in two games, setting up all three of Orlando’s goals in back-to-back wins over Chicago and Columbus.
Torres went quiet for the following seven games, however, scoring one goal against Charlotte as his only goal contribution during that time frame.
But, as the season unfolded, Torres started to settle in. He had a goal and an assist against D.C. United on July 4 and scored six more goals over the season’s final four months in league play, while adding four more assists.
He was also starting to emerge offensively as the Lions progressed through the 2022 U.S. Open Cup schedule, scoring three goals and adding two assists in the final two matches to lead Orlando City to the trophy.
He also scored for the Lions in their midseason friendly against English Premier League giants Arsenal.
OLHA O EMPATE DO ORLANDO CITY PRA CIMA DO ARSENAL! Nesse jogão do @FC_Series que você vê na @tntbr, @estadiobr (https://t.co/QfVGLo0yCh) e YouTube, Facundo Torres bateu no canto do gol de Ramsdale e fez 1x1 no Orlando City Stadium! #FCSeriesNaTNTSports— TNT Sports BR (@TNTSportsBR) July 21, 2022
️: @andrehenning pic.twitter.com/WExv4XT2s2
Torres played in all six of the Lions’ matches en route to the trophy (five starts), logging 498 minutes. That includes all 120 minutes against Nashville and 119 of the 120 minutes against Inter Miami. He scored four goals and added two assists in the competition, including figuring in all three of the team’s goals in the championship match against Sacramento Republic FC. He also scored the winning penalty in the shootout against Nashville SC. Torres attempted 16 shots, getting eight on target in the tournament. He completed 84.2% of his 284 pass attempts, with 16 key passes and 13 accurate long balls. He recorded four interceptions, committed two fouls while drawing 10, and was not booked.
In the regular season, Torres appeared in 33 of the team’s 34 games (29 starts), amassing 2,600 minutes. He scored nine goals and added 10 assists on the season — placing second on the team in those categories to Ercan Kara in goals (11) and Mauricio Pereyra in assists (11), respectively. However, it should be mentioned that Torres tied Pereyra for the team lead in primary assists, with eight. Torres fired 53 shot attempts this season, putting 14 on target — so he was accurate with his on-target shots (64.3%), but only put 26.4% of his total attempts on frame. He completed 83.3% of his 1,187 passes and finished with 36 key passes and 29 accurate long balls. Defensively, he logged 36 tackles, 12 interceptions, 10 clearances, and three blocks. He committed only 12 fouls all season while drawing an incredible 65 on the opposition, picking up only one yellow card.
Torres also started in Orlando City’s lone playoff match, playing all 90 minutes. He did not have a goal contribution and attempted only one off-target shot. Despite passing at a 94.6% rate on 37 attempts, Torres had just one accurate long ball and did not register a key pass. He contributed one tackle and one interception, drew one foul without committing one, and was not booked.
The Mane Land staff gave Torres a composite rating of 8 out of 10 for his first season in Orlando. There’s a chance it could end up being Torres’ only season with the Lions, as the aforementioned Arsenal is reportedly interested in acquiring his services, but that’s something to worry about later.
Torres injected some excitement into an Orlando City season that sometimes hit the doldrums. The Lions struggled at times to put together complete games during 2022, but Torres always gave fans hope.
With 13 goals and 12 assists across Orlando’s two major competitions in 2022, Torres’ record signing paid off in just his first year in MLS. Having just turned 22 in April, Torres played beyond his years during the 2022 calendar year for the Lions.
He played well enough down the stretch to get selected for Uruguay’s World Cup team. Even though he didn’t play in the tournament, he staked his claim for a spot in four years when he’s in his prime, assuming Uruguay qualifies.
Hopefully, he’ll be back in Orlando as expected for another go-around in 2023 and continue to give City fans that same jolt of excitement — perhaps even building on what he was able to do in 2022. But even if he does get snapped up by a big European team this off-season, the signing of Torres was a big moment for the club this year. The Wilf family showed it was willing to go out and spend money to improve the roster in a way that hadn’t happened before. It also illustrated that Orlando City could go into South America and sign top young talent.
For all of the reasons above, the signing of Facundo Torres back in January is a worthy inclusion in our list of the club’s top moments of 2022.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2022.
Previous Top Moments of 2022
10. OCB nabs first win in MLS NEXT Pro play after joining the new league.