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Orlando City Re-Signs Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese

El Pulpo signs through 2024 with a club option for a third year in 2025.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City has re-signed goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to a two-year contract that will keep him in purple through 2024 and the Lions hold an additional option for the 2025 season. The club announced the deal officially today, although it’s been percolating in the background for a while.

“Pedro has been an important part of our club’s success over his three years in Orlando and we’re very excited to agree to a deal that will see him remain with us for the foreseeable future,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “We believe he is one of the most talented goalkeepers, not only in our league, but in the world, and we are happy to have him representing our club, our city, and our fans.”

Reports had been swirling in the media that the club and the player were close to a deal and MLSSoccer.com’s Tom Bogert reported on Christmas day that the deal was done.

That followed a public Twitter exchange Saturday between Muzzi and Technical Director Ricardo Moreira that seemed to indicate things were well in hand with Gallese.

Gallese, 32, signed with Orlando City back on Jan. 17 of 2020 and has been the Lions’ starter for the last three seasons. During that span, he’s been one of the league’s best shot stoppers, with 228 saves and 21 clean sheets across all competitions. He joined the club on a TAM deal as a free agent. He had previously been on loan from Liga MX side Veracruz to Alianza Lima in Peru. With Veracruz being disaffiliated, Gallese was free to sign with another team.

Gallese made 24 competitive starts in his first year as a Lion in 2020. Those 24 matches included 19 league games, one playoff match, and four starts in the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stages. He only allowed 25 goals that season, which was the fewest by any Orlando City keeper who made more than 10 starts since 2013. His 25 goals allowed in 24 games gave him an impressive goals-against average of just 1.04. In just MLS matches, his GAA was slightly higher (1.05), and he tied for fifth in the league for best GAA for goalkeepers who made at least 15 starts. The Peruvian faced 71 shots in league play and saved 52 of them — a rate of 73.2%, which was the best in one season in Orlando’s MLS history. He finished 2020 with a record of 11-3-5, with three shutouts.

In the playoffs, Gallese started the Lions’ first playoff match against New York City FC. He was issued a yellow card in the 103rd minute for time-wasting. Then, he was issued another in the penalty shootout for coming off his line early, which forced Rodrigo Schlegel to don the gloves and finish the penalty shootout. Gallese made six saves in the match. He earned a rating of 7 out of 10 from The Mane Land staff for his first MLS season.

In his second year in Orlando, Gallese appeared in 22 matches (all starts) and amassed 1,980 minutes. An injury suffered against New York City FC and duty with the Peruvian National Team cost him a total of 12 matches in 2021. He allowed 30 goals and made 68 saves on the season, recording a save percentage of 68%. He stopped one of the three penalty shots he faced and kept seven clean sheets. His passing rate improved from 72.3% in 2020 to 74.5%. His performance got him selected to the 2021 MLS All-Star Game.

Gallese started and played all 90 minutes in the Lions’ playoff game at Nashville in 2021, allowing three goals and stopping three shots on target. He passed at an 87% rate in the match. He did not appear in Orlando’s Leagues Cup match against Santos Laguna due to the injury he sustained against NYCFC. TML gave him a composite rating of 8 out of 10 for the 2021 season.

The Peruvian international played in the final three U.S. Open Cup games (all starts) in 2022, helping the Lions win the trophy by logging 300 minutes (one of those matches included 30 minutes of extra time). He gave up two goals, while making nine saves on the 11 shots he faced for a save percentage of 83.3%, and recorded a clean sheet in the final. He also passed with 70.7% accuracy, and was given three yellow cards. The Lions were 2-0-1 in those three matches, advancing past Nashville thanks in part to Gallese’s save against Eric Miller in the postgame penalty shootout.

In league play, he played in 32 of the team’s 34 matches (all starts), recording 2,880 minutes. He allowed 47 goals and made 79 saves for a 62.7% save percentage while keeping a club-record nine clean sheets on the year. The club went 14-13-5 in his 32 starts and posted a 1.47 goals-against average. He was unable to stop any of the four penalty kicks he faced in the regular season, and passed with 75.2% accuracy. He also started and went the distance in OCSC’s playoff game in Montreal, allowing two goals, one of which came from the penalty spot.

Our staff again gave Gallese a rating of 8 out of 10 for his 2022 season performance. He also won MLS Save of the Year for robbing former Lion Dom Dwyer in a match at Atlanta. Gallese is the second Lion to win the award, joining Joe Bendik (2016). Just look at this thing:

In international play, Gallese has been Peru’s No. 1 for several years and he’s received 93 caps with his national team since 2014. He appeared in 37 matches in all competitions with Alianza Lima in 2019 and had a good overall performance score of 6.76 from WhoScored.com. The native of Lima, Peru appeared in 51 games with Veracruz from 2016-2019. He previously played with Peruvian side Juan Aurich from 2014-2016, making 45 appearances. Prior to that, he played with Peruvian sides Atletico Minero and Universidad San Martin.

What It Means for Orlando City

One of the most important pieces of the Orlando City off-season puzzle fell into place with Gallese re-signing to stay on in the City Beautiful. The Lions have a solid backup goalkeeper in Mason Stajduhar and a great team guy as the emergency option in Adam Grinwis. While some may be ready to see the Homegrown Stajduhar get an opportunity as a starter, there’s little doubt that Gallese is an undisputed No. 1 keeper in MLS. The hope here is that Stajduhar continues to develop and learn from El Pulpo and stays ready for when called upon.

Gallese gives the club a legitimate chance every night to change a result by making a game-altering play in front of goal. A perfect example of that is his MLS Save of the Year contribution, which kept a would-be, go-ahead goal off the board in what was ultimately a road draw. His saves over the past three years have allowed the Lions to hold onto late leads and turn what could be losses into draws and draws into wins. Since he’s already got three years of history with his starting center back pairing and key backup Rodrigo Schlegel, the Lions shouldn’t have many communications issues with Gallese back in the fold.

The remaining off-season business for the club will be to fill the club’s third Designated Player slot. That could be Argentine attacker Martin Ojeda, as has recently been reported. Orlando will likely still want to add one more veteran forward to back up Ercan Kara, as the current depth consists of second-year pro Jack Lynn and a pair of SuperDraft picks. Additional needs include settling the fullback positions — unless the plan is to start Kyle Smith or one of the Homegrowns at right back and Luca Petrasso on the left — and possibly add a depth center back.