There are a lot of things to like about Orlando City’s acquisition of Peruvian international goalkeeper Pedro Gallese; his wicked shot stopping abilities, his whip-smart decision making, his ability to play with his feet.
But perhaps best of all, Gallese is unlikely to be too intimidated by anything Major League Soccer throws at him. Josef Martinez? Carlos Vela? Chicharito? No problem. After all, you don’t play in the FIFA World Cup and three Copa Americas without learning how to play under pressure.
Let’s go through the resume. Gallese received his first call-up for Los Incas in 2014 and was first choice between the pipes nearly immediately. He kept a clean sheet to clinch a bronze medal for Peru at his first Copa America in 2015, then was Man of the Match in a stunning 1-0 upset of Brazil at the following year’s Copa America Centenario, during which he saved multiple point blank shots from Flamengo sensation Gabigol. It was that performance that earned him the nickname “El Pulpo,” the Octopus, as well as a jump to Liga MX.
Gallese has only added to his legend in recent years. My broadcast colleague and former Orlando City star Miguel Gallardo will tell you how important your wrists are to goalkeeping. Gallese fractured his wrist in a Liga MX match in August 2017, but fought through the pain to return for Peru not two months later and keep a clean sheet in a do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Gallese then pitched shutouts in both legs of Peru’s World Cup playoff match against New Zealand to see Los Incas through 2-0 on aggregate.
The Peruvian went on to start all three of Peru’s matches in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the nation’s first appearance on soccer’s grandest stage since 1982. He helped Los Incas make even more history in the 2019 Copa America, saving a penalty from Barcelona superstar Luis Suarez during a decisive shootout in the quarterfinal round against Uruguay, then keeping a clean sheet against Chile in the semifinals to launch Peru to its first Copa America final since 1975.
Safe to say, then, that Gallese has been through the pressure cooker more than once. Still in the prime of his career at 29 years old, the Peruvian No. 1 will look to translate his international heroics to MLS. He’ll do so in front of a carefully crafted spine that EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi has built.
Since the start of the 2019 season, Muzzi and his team have brought in defensive midfielders Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso, and Andres Perea, along with center backs Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Kamal Miller, and Rodrigo Schlegel, giving Gallese plenty of support in front of him. Orlando City set a club record for fewest goals conceded in 2019 and will look to drop that number further with its slate of additions to the defense in 2020. Gallese, a man with a proven record of coming up biggest under the brightest lights, represents a major piece of that puzzle.