MLS in Focus: Dom Dwyer maturing into a well-rounded striker

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER

Normally, this column is reserved for players who are overlooked parts of their teams’ success.

That’s not quite the case this time.

Dom Dwyer is not overlooked, by any means. Even in the relatively small market of Kansas City, 34 goals in two seasons will earn you a fair bit of attention.

But there is more to being a forward than scoring goals.

Dwyer, now 25, is maturing as a player into a complete forward — someone capable of playing with his back to goal and involving his teammates in attacks. On Saturday night, matched up against an admittedly bandaged Red Bulls backline, Dwyer had his way. In a game where SKC was often on the defensive, Dwyer made the most of his limited time on the ball.

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Dwyer had a goal on the night, but his best moment of the game earned him an assist. Dwyer starts this sequence all alone, the only SKC player within 20 yards of the ball. His first touch probably does him no favors. But he recovers, and rather than furthering his isolation by trying to dribble past Chris Duvall, he uses his strength to keep possession until a teammate arrives. Instead of trying to squeeze a pass for Graham Zusi to Duvall’s right, he cuts it back to Duvall’s right, which allows Zusi to get on the end of the ball in stride.

Even if this hadn’t resulted in a goal, Dwyer has performed a valuable service for his team. A lot of players would have lost possession, to say nothing of springing that possession free into outright attack.

Dwyer gave his defense a chance to relax with the ball at the other end of the field.

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It’s a simpler move here, but the same idea. Dwyer doesn’t try to turn and go it alone. That extra touch he takes forces the Red Bulls players around him to decide between him and Feilhaber; that’s what gives Feilhaber the bit of space to run on to the ball.

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Dwyer in many ways plays against type. There are a bunch of center forwards who play this way, but not many are 5’9.” Dwyer’s not going to go up and win headers against most centerbacks, but he’s stronger than his size would suggest — and that strength and physicality is a key part of his game.

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Oh, and, it is useful that he can do that.


You might recall two summers ago when Jozy Altidore was injured at the World Cup, how the U.S. suffered without the sort of hold-up play he provided. The USMNT was under pressure for long stretches of time, and without Altidore, they lacked a strong forward capable of doing the back-to-goal work required to relieve that pressure.

So it’s worth noting that though Dwyer was born and raised in England, he has expressed an interest in playing for the U.S. national team. He is on track to become a citizen, and thus eligible to play for the U.S. in 2017. With Altidore struggling to find consistent success at the international level, Dwyer should get a shot to prove himself on that stage when the time comes.