Orlando City brought in Ercan Kara to replace Daryl Dike at the striker position for the 2022 season, signing him to a Designated Player contract on Jan. 27. The 26-year-old Austrian has shown glimpses of his skill so far this season, but hasn’t been as productive as many had hoped. So, why does Kara only have four goals in the regular season, and one in the U.S. Open Cup? Let’s take a look at Kara’s impact on Orlando City’s attack so far in 2022.
At 6-foot-4 and 194 pounds, Kara has all the physical traits necessary in a forward. He has the spatial awareness to know where the goal is with his back to it, and has shown he knows when to pass the ball to a teammate if he doesn’t have the best angle on goal. Kara also seems to be able to get into good positions and has decent hold-up play. He is the top scorer for Orlando City, despite trailing the other top scorers in MLS.
Kara has attempted 22 shots, with nine on target, resulting in four goals during the regular season. That means he is scoring on 18% of his shots, and 44% of his shots on target. He has played in 14 matches for 855 total minutes in the regular season. That puts him at a goal every 3.5 matches, and a goal every 213 minutes.
For comparison, league leaders Jeremy Ebobisse and Jesús Ferreira each have nine goals so far this season. Ebobisse has attempted 43 shots, with 19 on target, which means he is scoring on 21% of his shots, and 47% of his shots on target. Ebobisse has played in 14 matches for a total of 1,199 minutes. That puts him at a goal every 1.5 matches, and a goal every 133 minutes. Meanwhile, Ferreira has attempted 33 shots, with 13 on target, which means he is scoring on 27% of his shots, and 69% of his shots on target. That translates to a goal every 1.5 matches, and a goal every 123 minutes.
The most obvious reason for the discrepancy is the amount of chances that Ebobisse and Ferreira are getting. Yes, Kara’s percentages are lower, but in the case of Ebobisse, not significantly. Some of Kara’s slow start can be attributed to missing a big chunk of the preseason due to injury and acclimating to a new culture and a new league, while. But Kara has also been left out on an island in several matches this season. If you are a target striker and you are not getting any service into the box from your wingers or your attacking midfield, it is going to be difficult to generate shots and score goals.
With this being Kara’s first season in MLS, there is going to be an adjustment period to not only the league, but his new teammates. Neither was Kara the only new addition to the attack, with the signing of Facundo Torres and the return of Pato from injury after essentially missing all of 2021. As Kara has settled in, the goals have started to come more frequently. Kara didn’t get his first goal until the seventh match of the season. That means in the last eight league matches he has four goals. If you throw in the three Open Cup matches, he has five goals in the last 11 matches. Let’s take a look at the types of goals he has scored so far this season.
His first goal came in the 1-0 win at Chicago Fire FC. Torres took a set piece from the left side of the box and sent it past the back post, where Pato sent a header across to Kara for an easy finish into the back of the net. Your tall striker should get headers off of set pieces, and Kara did just that.
Kara’s second goal came in the 2-0 win against the Columbus Crew. This goal shows Kara’s nose for where the goal is and his ability to take a shot quickly. It also highlights his ability to pass in the box to teammates. I don’t know that he was expecting that ball to come back to him, but when it did he knew exactly what to do with it.
His goal in the 2-1 U.S. Open Cup win over the Philadelphia Union was a clean-up shot opportunity following an Urso shot that was blocked. The important part is how quickly and calmly Kara takes this shot. He takes one touch to settle the ball, squares his hips and then the shot.
His third goal of the regular season came in the horrendously officiated 2-2 draw at Austin FC. This was a case of the right time, and the right place, but also of Kara staying alert. The second Júnior Urso intercepts the ball, Kara checks the defenders, positions himself for the ball and makes his easiest goal for the Lions this year.
Kara’s fourth MLS goal came in the 3-1 loss to FC Dallas last Saturday. It was his second set piece header. This time it was Mauricio Pereyra who delivered the ball into the box. Kara beat his man and got under the ball to head it behind him and just inside the far post.
Kara has scored in three of Orlando City’s last five matches in all competitions. If the big Austrian can pick back up where he left off after the break, he will likely break into double digits, and show exactly why he is currently Orlando City’s highest-paid player.
What are your thoughts on what we’ve seen from Kara, and what do you think we’ll see the rest of the season? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.