Although Orlando City failed to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, the Lions got some some strong individual performances, including the addition of star Nani and the debut of rookie Benji Michel, that could carry over to 2020. At the end of a frustrating season for Orlando City, here is a look back at each player’s impact and progress.
Akindele was the standout of the position group this season, netting a personal-best 10 goals to come in behind Nani as the team’s second highest goal-scorer. His presence in the attacking third and ability to deliver clinical finishes brought an edge when other forwards struggled.
After showing improvement in 2018, the designated player failed to deliver this season, notching seven goals and four assists. Dwyer fell into streaky periods, scoring most of his goals in the first and final months of the season and struggling with injury issues throughout the summer.
The breakout success of the season, Michel quickly became the vision of how Orlando City can claw its way up in the league standings with homegrown talent development. Scoring five goals and adding an assist during his rookie campaign, Michel flexed his speed up the flanks while building confidence.
Mueller returned as a fan favorite for the Lions, boosted by a midseason scoring spike. He fell out of the starting lineup as the season progressed, finishing with five goals and four assists.
Another local success, Patiño saw less minutes than Michel but capitalized on his opportunities, scoring two goals and adding an assist over 11 games of action.
The captain delivered on every expectation during the 2019 season, showing the excitement he can deliver through his chance creation and finishing. He led the team with 12 goals and 10 assists, shining during the final stretch of the season.
An electric midseason signing, Pereyra showed flashes of his full potential as the team’s new 10-slot midfielder during his first six matches with the club. Although his lack of preseason conditioning severely limited his appearances, Pereyra served up three assists in the final four matches of the season, offering a glimpse at his future ability to create for the Lions.
An Orlando City mainstay, Higuita highlighted once again his ability to light up the midfield and create crucial connections in the attacking third. But a series of injuries limited his playing time during a key stretch of the season, reducing his production to only two assists during nine games.
Ascues enjoyed a year of personal growth, earning his first call-up to the Peruvian national team in three years due to his work with Orlando City. Although he often serves as more of a defensive midfielder, Ascues showed his ability to factor into the attack, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
The midfielder’s production dropped significantly from 2018, as Kljestan served up three assists and only scored one goal. The arrival of Mauricio Pereyra as a replacement at the 10 slot severely cut Kljestan’s minutes, and he didn’t earn a start in the final 11 games of the season. This marked the final year of the midfielder’s contract with Orlando City.
Johnson served as a consistent workhorse in the midfield, notching one assist for the Lions. His highlight of the year came in the team’s June victory over Montreal with a high-flying belly flop of a header to score on a full-team passage of play.
A versatile addition to the midfield, Méndez featured in 23 games for the Lions this season. Although he didn’t notch any offensive statistics for the team, he provided another link and addition of speed to connect the midfield.
The designated player logged eight games and tallied an assist before the club loaned him out to Paraguayan club Cerro Porteño.
Powers saw a significant increase in opportunities this season, starting in all seven of his appearances and adding an assist, but he mainly served as a depth player for the midfield.
Another important shift player for the Lions, Rosell factored into 20 games for the Lions this season, adding an assist as a role player in the midfield.
A midseason acquisition from the Columbus Crew, Robinho featured in six games, but he struggled to etch his way into the regular rotation, playing only three minutes over the final seven games of the season.
One of the most important acquisitions of the 2019 season, Jansson became one half of the team’s dynamic centerback duo, leading the team to a record low of 52 goals allowed. Over 28 starts, the defender’s physicality held together the backline even throughout heavy injury turnover at outside back.
The other half of the Orlando City centerback duo, Sané was locked into the starting position early in the season and quickly became a smothering force on the backline. A vocal leader, his experience and length offered improved stability on defense for the Lions.
Rounding out the highly successful rookie trio, Miller proved himself to be a value pick as the team’s second round MLS SuperDraft selection. The rookie shifted out from his traditional centerback role to fill in for injured teammates, earning 14 starts at left back, and also earned his first call-ups to the Canadian national team.
Perhaps the greatest unknown quantity for the Lions, Moutinho dazzled with his speed up the flanks in the early segments of the season. But he spent the latter half of the year sidelined, playing only 14 minutes in the final 10 games with consecutive hamstring, quad and calf injuries.
One of two players James O’Connor brought over from Louisville, Smith stepped up in a major way in the latter half of the season, claiming valuable minutes over 23 games at outside back.
An absolute force of speed and athleticism, Ruan offered a boost up the flanks and created an important link between the backline and the midfield. Although the defender suffered an injury late in the season, his impact was felt widely throughout the season.
Despite a variety of injuries at outside back, Acosta only saw eight games of action, and his role in the team faded as Kamal Miller earned starting rights at outside back in the latter half of the season.
Once O’Connor landed on the combination of Jansson and Sané as the starting center pairing for the defense, game minutes fell to the wayside for the rest of the team’s centerbacks. DeJohn only factored into six games due to this.
Another casualty of the Jansson and Sané combo at centerback, O’Neill served as a shift player, playing in 11 games and serving mainly as a replacement when one of the starters needed relief.
During the best season of his career, Rowe snagged 110 saves in goal and recorded seven shutouts, serving as the steady rock of the backline.
As the main backup for the Lions, Grinwis earned the starting goalkeeper spot for the U.S. Open Cup, making two penalty kick saves in the quarterfinals to send the Lions further than they’d ever been in the tourney.
The second of O’Connor’s selections from Louisville FC, Ranjitsingh served a firmly third-string role, playing in two games and notching four saves.