Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but they’re often a pretty good place to start. With the 2023 season getting closer and closer, I thought about who will end up leading Orlando City in several categories this year. I took into account several things, including the numbers a player put up last year, how many minutes they played, and the makeup of this year’s team and how that might affect things.
Goals: Ercan Kara — 17
In his debut season, the big Austrian managed 11 strikes in the league, spread across 1,789 minutes of play and 29 appearances (22 starts). It wasn’t a bad number, especially when you consider that the severe lack of threat on the left wing for much of the season allowed teams to focus on blanketing Facundo Torres and Mauricio Pereyra in order to limit the service that Kara received. The arrival of Martin Ojeda should fix that issue, and with him, Pereyra, and Facu feeding Orlando’s number nine, I expect his goal output to rise accordingly. I don’t expect him to have to shoulder the scoring burden on his own, though. Given Ojeda’s resume and what Torres was able to provide last year, 17 seems like a nice projection for Kara’s second year in purple.
Assists: Facundo Torres — 13
I was tempted to give this to Ojeda, given his 14-assist season from last year, but I’m going to say that Torres takes the spot this year. He finished one behind Pereyra in 2022, with 10, and that was after taking a few months to acclimate to his new surroundings. I think that what he was able to do last year, combined with a year of MLS play under his belt and a true threat on the opposite wing, means that he’ll be able to add three more helpers to his 2022 total. It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong and Ojeda lights the place on fire, but Torres being a known quantity makes him feel like a safer bet in this spot.
Passing Accuracy: Cesar Araujo — 90%
Last year, Orlando’s top two in passing accuracy were Joey DeZart, who completed three passes, and Sebas Mendez, who completed 314 of the 339 he attempted. The next man on the list? Araujo with 1,311 completed passes out of the 1,445 he attempted for a 90.7% accuracy rate. He also attempted the second-most passes on the team, with only Pereyra’s 1,509 ahead of him. Part of his high accuracy rate can be attributed to where he plays, as a lot of Araujo’s job consists of linking the back line to the midfield, and distributing the ball out wide, rather than playing high-risk passes in or into the attacking third. Still, his security and accuracy with those passes is impressive, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t repeat that during his second year as a Lion.
Clean Sheets: Pedro Gallese — 7
This one is less about who the distinction will go to, and more about what the actual number will be. El Pulpo had nine clean sheets last year, as the Lions gave up 53 goals across the 34 games of MLS play. While I don’t think Gallese’s ability is going to drop off this year, I do have some worries about the defense in front of him. Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson should be as solid as ever, but both missed significant time with injury last year, and while Rodrigo Schlegel is also excellent, the center backs aren’t the area of defense that I’m worried about. It remains to be seen who will start at each of the fullback positions, and how the chemistry is across the back line with one, possibly two (mostly) new faces in it. That uncertainty means I can see OCSC giving up a few more goals than usual, at least until everyone gels, so I feel comfortable dropping the clean sheet number by two.
Tackles: Cesar Araujo — 55
Joao Moutinho led the team last year with 47 tackles won, but Araujo was nipping at his heels and finished with 41. Pereyra was the next closest with 29, followed by Kyle Smith with 27. Araujo covers a ton of ground, and with a full season of experience to draw upon, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to expect that number to rise by a decent amount in 2023. He has a way to go before catching last year’s league leader, Claudio Bravo, who tallied 77, but 55 is a plenty respectable number and would have been good for fifth in the league last year.
Bookings: Robin Jansson — 11
This is a slightly tongue-in-cheek category, but it’s also perhaps the easiest one to predict. Jansson only played 22 games last year but he led the Lions in bookings, with 10 total (nine yellow, one red). It’s not like he was hacking people down left and right, either, as he only committed 13 fouls during 2022, and more often than not it seemed like it was his proclivity for aggressive conversation with the officials that was getting him into trouble. If he continues in the same way during 2023, then he might have this category in the bag.
What are your thoughts? Does everything look about right or would you have picked different players or totals in certain categories? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.