Dom Dwyer came out of college on a Generation adidas contract, but in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft he had to wait too long for his name to be called. The league got through 15 picks and then finally, with pick No. 16, Peter Vermes pulled the trigger and the bulldog of a center forward became a member of Sporting Kansas City.
Except he didn't, really – not for a year and a half. Dwyer played just four MLS minutes as a rookie, and then before his second season, 2013, even started, Dwyer was loaned out to a then-USL club called Orlando City.
The Englishman, who is now a capped and cap-tied, goalscoring, Red, White & Blue American citizen, proceeded to douse that league in kerosene and light a match. He scored 15 goals in 13 games, ran past or pushed through every defender in his path, and made it an absolute no-brainer for Vermes to end the loan and call him back to Sporting KC in the middle of that season.
After a month, Dwyer scored his first MLS goal. A month after that, he established himself as a starter. And three months after that, he spearheaded the SKC attack as the franchise won its second MLS Cup. Along the way Vermes let Dwyer go back to Orlando City on a one-week special loan for the USL final. Dwyer scored four goals and led OCSC to a 7-4 win in what is still that league's greatest-ever individual performance.
All of the above, taken as a whole, means that Dwyer's career path changed the way MLS and USL teams think about soccer and developing young players. His success played a part in altering the structure of the soccer pyramid here, opened the Overton Window in terms of what was done and what wasn't.
Now, on Tuesday, Dwyer returns to Orlando City, his "spiritual home" as it was once called, in a blockbuster sale that will once again rearrange how MLS teams do business. SKC's second-all-time leading scorer (he has 67 goals across all competitions) heads to central Florida; up to $1.6 million in allocation money – at least $400,000 of GAM and $500,000 of TAM, with another $700,000 of assorted and as yet unspecified Allocation Money tacked on depending upon his performance in Purple – heads to the Great Plains.
It's not clear what those performance bonuses are, but given Dwyer's track record, are you about to doubt that he'll hit the mark?
The league has never seen a "trade" like this. Just as Dwyer's success in USL signaled the start of a new MLS era, it feels very much like this trade has done the same. If the Dax McCarty and Kevin Molino sales this winter opened the doors a crack for this kind of move, the Dwyer sale has blown those doors of their hinges. Players – proven, star players in their prime – are very much for sale within MLS now. Somebody will write a chapter about this in a book some day, even if Dwyer's return to Orlando doesn't work perfectly on the field.
And there are going to be some obvious concerns about that given how much OCSC have struggled over the last few months. Their attack has been "hope like hell that Cyle Larin() can poach a goal," which hasn't been sustainable. Kaká is hinting at retirement, Carlos Rivas hasn't really figured out how to play functionally in possession, and there's a lack of creativity in central midfield that means they're predictable and easily prepared for.
I feel like we'll get another press release about Larin's future in the next couple of days. The writing's on the wall here, right?
Dwyer doesn't fix all of that, but he can at least provide a structure and definition to the team's attack that Larin really doesn't. As big and strong and soft-footed as Larin is, he's still primarily a drifting poacher who only reluctantly does the dirty work.
Dwyer thrives on the dirty work. No forward in the league is braver at checking back to receive the ball or going across the middle to take a hit and draw fouls. His runs are good and functional and reliable, and playing to his feet means that the rest of the midfield and attack will get to advance with a little more confidence. He is going to be available as an outlet:
He is also going to be in the box, making runs. Dwyer has scored 91 professional goals (67 for SKC, 22 for Orlando City in USL and Open Cup play, and two for the USMNT) across all competitions for a reason. He has a relentless motor and a nose for the ball in the box, and those two things mean he dents the net. That's why OCSC broke the bank for him.
What does this mean for Sporting KC? First, that they believe Diego Rubio is probably ready to start. They invested a lot of time and money in the 24-year-old Chilean, and he's looked good while Dwyer's been away on international duty.
Second, that they probably weren't comfortable signing Dwyer to a big contract after this season, and that the difference between Dwyer's proven production and Rubio's potential wasn't enough to turn away a king's ransom in GAM and TAM. They'll still play the way they play – Rubio's got less dog in him than Dwyer, but probably better feet and a little more explosiveness – and now they have a ton of money to add a couple of difference-makers this window. It was a sale they almost had to make.
And so they did, and Dwyer's time in KC is now done. It'll be remembered for goals and trophies, the occasional dive, more than a few yellow and red cards, and for changing the way MLS thought about inter-league loans and intra-league sales.
The man has left a legacy. Orlando City are now ready for him to start building a new one.