Orlando City

Orlando City Getting Production From the Forward Position

The Lions’ recent production from Ercan Kara and Duncan McGuire bodes well for a playoff run.



Image courtesy of Orlando City / Mark Thor

The early part of the 2023 MLS season has been frustrating for Orlando City. Despite filling a Designated Player spot with a forward in Ercan Kara prior to the 2022 season, scoring was a problem in the opening games. However, the Lions have finally started to see production from that position, providing optimism for a turnaround.

Daryl Dike was Orlando City’s star striker during the 2020 and 2021 MLS seasons, netting a team-high 19 goals in those two seasons combined. Following his departure for English Championship side West Bromwich Albion after the 2021 campaign, the Lions spent big, bringing in Austrian striker Kara. They attempted to bolster their scoring further in the last two drafts, bringing in Jack Lynn and Duncan McGuire with their two most recent first-round picks.

Kara scored 11 goals in MLS play last season, more than Dike had scored in either of his two years in Orlando. It was only his first year in the league, so it was safe to assume that the Austrian would only get better, possibly even threatening Cyle Larin’s MLS single-season club record of 17 goals set in 2015. Given that the club used a valuable roster position on the forward, some even expected those results.

The pressure to score this season was always going to be on the 27-year-old. Lynn was used sparingly last year and McGuire is still getting used to the professional game, although he started well. The club signed Argentine Ramiro Enrique to replace Benji Michel as the speedy alternative, but he’s yet to find the back of the net.

The lack of experience, combined with a thigh injury to Kara, saw the Lions fail to get a goal from a forward in five of their first six MLS games. The only goal was a 53rd-minute conversion by McGuire away to D.C. United in a 1-1 draw. It wasn’t much better in the Champions League, with the team only finding one goal against UANL Tigres — Kara’s 90th-minute equalizer in the second leg that wasn’t enough to see them advance.

The poor production from the forward position was even more disappointing because of the team’s success defensively. Despite missing Antonio Carlos for the early part of the season and displaying two new starting outside backs, the Lions recorded clean sheets in their first two MLS games, as well as their first Champions League contest. They only gave up multiple goals twice in their first eight games in all competitions.

The turn in fortune started on April 15 in Minnesota. McGuire scored his second professional goal in the 88th minute and followed that with a first-half equalizer against D.C. United the next weekend. Since then, Kara has taken over the starting role.

After scoring just one goal on the season, Kara has now scored in his last three games and in four of his last five appearances. The team’s May 13 draw against the Columbus Crew in Ohio saw the Lions get two goals from the forward position for the first time this season.

The impact of forwards getting on the scoresheet has become more evident recently. When Orlando City wasn’t getting production from the position, the team only scored multiple goals in two of eight league games. Since Kara’s scoring run began on April 29 in a 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy, the Lions have scored multiple goals in three of their last five games and are coming off their first three-goal performance of the season.

Between Kara’s injury and the young backups, it was questionable where the team’s goals would come from. But Kara and McGuire have recently taken over that task. With his recent run of form, the Austrian is finally starting to look like the player Orlando City thought it signed prior to last season and McGuire seems to be adjusting well to the new level, showing why he was named the MAC Hermann Trophy winner last year at Creighton.

It’s been a disappointing start to the 2023 MLS season, primarily because of the team’s lack of goals. But the recent production from the forward position shows that the ability is there. If Kara and McGuire continue their current production, it could result in a run up the standings and see the Lions escape the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since 2020.


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