Orlando City

International Duty Provides Mason Stajduhar with Opportunity for Growth

Orlando’s Homegrown goalkeeper has a chance to lead the Lions to their first league win of 2024.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City will look to earn the squad’s first victory of the 2024 season tonight against Austin FC after a hectic and congested start to the season. Tonight’s match lands smack dab in the middle of an international window, which will see Orlando without multiple familiar faces, including Facundo Torres, Duncan McGuire, and Pedro Gallese.

While the depth at the positions players like Torres and McGuire usually occupy has already been tested and given ample game time on the field to start the season, there is one substitute who has yet to see the field in the regular season.

Backup goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar, who originally was signed as a Homegrown Player back in 2015, is set to get the start against Austin FC with Gallese away representing Peru. While a few fans on social media have been soap boxing for this change to take place as the Lions have allowed 10 goals through the first four MLS matches of the season, it would be incredibly shortsighted and premature to put Gallese out to pasture just yet. There have been a few saves which El Pulpo would normally make which have gotten by him, but it would be irresponsible to ignore that a good number of the goals scored against OCSC this season have come not from poor goalkeeping, but rather total defensive breakdowns.

Nonetheless, there will now be a golden opportunity for Stajduhar to showcase his growth as a keeper and to demonstrate why he was signed to a contract extension back in June of 2022. Stajduhar was called upon once this season already against Cavalry FC at home on Feb. 27 in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup — a game that Orlando won 3-1, during which he faced three shots on target.

Stajduhar, 26, is capable of controlling the box and making athletic saves when needed. It has been almost a year to the day when Stajduhar started on the road for Orlando City against the Philadelphia Union in Chester, PA, amidst a then-rocky start to the 2023 campaign, and with multiple players gone on international duty. Sound familiar?

He helped Orlando to a 2-1 victory that night, which was a statement win at the time in an otherwise very early season. The hope now is that he can take to the starting 11 once again and help facilitate a positive result for the Lions.

While Gallese is likely to miss more time with Peru on international duty throughout the season, Orlando is no longer competing in the U.S. Open Cup this year, which in seasons past gave ample experience for Stajduhar, specifically in the early rounds of the tournament. Injuries notwithstanding, the exposure to the starting lineup for Mason will be less than it has been in years past, which is why an opportunity to work towards a victory, at minimum, and possibly even a clean sheet, stands so large for the keeper tonight.

I have a lot faith in the longest-tenured Lion on the roster, and Austin FC is as good a squad as any to face while missing the key cogs of the rotation. Orlando has to pick up a win eventually this season, and I see no reason why it can’t so so tonight with Stajduhar in goal. Do you share my sentiments? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, vamos Orlando!


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