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2020 Orlando City Season in Review: Mauricio Pereyra

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Attacking midfielder Mauricio Pereyra’s arrival created some excitement in a dismal 2019 season. However, the Uruguayan maestro barely got on the field last year due to nagging injuries after being signed on July 30 from Krasnodar on a free transfer. His vision on the field was immediately apparent but all we knew other than that was that he looked good with his hair dyed blond.

Let’s take a look at his first full season in Orlando.

Statistical Breakdown

After seeing the field just six times in 2019 for a total of 394 minutes, Pereyra managed 16 appearances (14 starts) during the pandemic-shortened 2020 regular season for 1,107 minutes. He still missed a chunk of the year (five games) with what appeared to be a hamstring issue at the time of occurrence — the club called it an “undisclosed injury.” Pereyra scored his first two MLS goals in the regular season and added a team-high eight assists, attempting nine shots and getting four on frame. One of his two goals was the game winner on Sept. 12 vs. Inter Miami.

Pereyra completed 25 dribbles and created 33 scoring chances. Based on chance creation, his eight assists indicate that his teammates owed him a little better finishing in the final third. He was tidy in possession, passing at an 83.5% rate. On the defensive side, the Uruguayan contributed 16 tackles, 10 interceptions, four clearances, and a block. He committed 18 fouls while drawing 20, but his tendency to lunge to win a ball back after losing control earned him six yellow cards during the regular season — but no reds — and a suspension for Orlando’s regular-season finale against Nashville SC.

In the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stages, Pereyra started all four games, playing 344 of the 360 available minutes. He scored a goal in the MLS is Back final against Portland but did not earn an assist in the four elimination games, attempting four shots with one on target. He also made his penalty attempt in the shootout against LAFC on Orlando’s first shot. Across those four matches, Pereyra completed five dribbles and created seven scoring chances, with a whopping six of those coming against LAFC. His passing rate for the knockout games was 82.7%. He contributed five tackles and four interceptions, committed four fouls, drew five free kicks, and saw one yellow card.

Pereyra started both of Orlando City’s playoff games, playing 105 minutes of the 120 against New York City FC but only 60 before being sent off against New England, for a total of 165 minutes. He did not score or assist on a goal in the postseason, attempting two shots but getting neither on frame. He created five scoring chances (all against NYCFC), passing with 83.5% accuracy, and completed nine dribbles (eight against NYCFC). He stepped up his defensive game in the postseason, compiling seven tackles, an interception, and a block, and the 30-year-old committed two fouls, drew two fouls, and was shown one straight red card for a horror tackle from behind against New England.

Best Game

The Lions’ midfield maestro had several big matches in 2020 but I’ll go with his two-assist performance against the Columbus Crew in a 2-1 win on Nov. 4. The Lions spent most of the second half down to 10 men due to Nani being wrongly sent off.

Orlando City took a 1-0 lead when Pereyra pounced on a wayward back pass from Harrison Afful that was intended for Artur. The Uruguayan took possession and bypassed a covered Tesho Akindele right in front, instead finding the perfect place to send the ball — a wide-open Chris Mueller, who was making a back post run. Mueller settled the ball and scored to give the Lions a deserved lead and Magic Mo had his first assist of the game.

Columbus equalized in the second half just moments after Nani’s sending off. The captain was initially shown a yellow and then referee Ramy Touchan changed his mind and gave a red after watching the replay. Since the red card was overturned in the midweek, it’s hard to imagine what Touchan saw upon review that made him believe he’d made a clear and obvious error, but the Lions were down to 10 men and level at 1-1 with nearly the full second half to play.

But Orlando City stayed compact in a 4-4-1 formation, held the Crew to hopeful long-range shots and crosses from the wings, and found some opportunities to counter. The game seemed destined to end in a tie when Pereyra pulled a little more magic out of his hat. He sent a perfect long ball forward to Benji Michel in the 84th minute that led to the winner.

Michel headed the ball up and behind himself, then turned inside the Crew defense and won the race to the loose ball before slotting it home between goalkeeper Eloy Room’s legs in what turned out to be the MLS Goal of the Week Award winner.

Pereyra’s second assist of the match was just about his last contribution, as he was subbed off moments later for Joey DeZart. Oscar Pareja had been planning the sub for a few minutes due to the Uruguayan sitting on a yellow card, but luckily there weren’t any stoppages in play before Pereyra was able to send the ball forward to Michel.

In addition to his two assists in the match, Pereyra attempted one shot and completed 63 of 67 passes for a 94% completion rate. He created six scoring chances in the match, equaling his season high, set twice previously vs. LAFC and at FC Dallas. He also completed two dribbles, five crosses, three long balls, and a through ball and drew four free kicks while committing just the one foul for which he’d been booked. In addition, he chipped in defensively with a tackle and an interception.

It was a tour de force performance by the Uruguayan Designated Player when the Lions needed one. Orlando City clinched a home match in the playoffs and temporarily jumped over the Crew into third in the standings heading into the season’s final weekend.

2020 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Pereyra a composite rating of 7.5 for the season after he failed to qualify for a final season rating in 2019. Some staff members had him rated as high as an 8. I tend to think season grades that high and perhaps a half point higher should be reserved for MLS Best XI players. Pereyra was arguably Orlando City’s MVP for 2020 with his vision, ball control, and ability to pull defenders out of position and pick out the right pass to punish them for it. The club went 8-1-5 with a +13 goal differential in the 14 matches that he started.

However, he could look for his shot a little more often, which would make him an even more dangerous player, and he could stand to be a little smarter about making lunging tackle attempts in order to raise his grade next season. Still, a 7.5 for a midfielder is quite good.

2021 Outlook

Following the 2020 season, Orlando City signed the 30-year-old to a one-year contract extension on Dec. 1, that runs through the end of the 2021 MLS season.

“We are very excited to have Mauricio continue with us in Orlando for another year,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He has shown himself to be incredibly creative and a driving force behind our attack. Mauricio is a very important piece on our roster and we look forward to seeing how he continues to elevate his game with the club next season.”

While Pereyra isn’t getting any younger or faster, it’s reasonable to expect a similar performance from the Uruguayan in 2021, provided he can avoid the injury issues he has suffered through the last two seasons. Not having so many matches so tightly scheduled as MLS had during this pandemic year would help save him some wear and tear, but a normal schedule also means more travel and more different climates in which to play. When healthy, Pereyra is as good as anyone in MLS at connecting the lines and sending attacking players into threatening positions. That shouldn’t change next year and Orlando will be better for it.


Previous Seasons in Review (Date Posted)

We hope you’ve enjoyed the 2020 Season in Review series, as we rated all players who saw action for the Lions during the most recent MLS campaign. The only rostered players from the year not covered were Josué Colmán — on loan all season and subsequently had his option declined — and Homegrown Players Michael Halliday and Mason Stajduhar, neither of whom made an appearance.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Player Grades & Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in a frustrating road draw against the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

A point is a point, but Orlando City is certainly capable of playing better than it showed in a frustrating 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire. Despite Facundo Torres’ early goal, the Lions looked like they weren’t on the same page for large stretches of the game, and displayed plenty of sloppiness. That may be partly due to being on short rest, but it was a disappointing performance against a struggling Chicago team. Here’s how I rated the individual performances during this one.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 5 — Pedro did some good things, one of which was coming off his line early in the 20th minute and neatly playing the ball with his thigh to avoid handling it outside the area, while preventing a 1-v-1 opportunity. Unfortunately, he should have done better on Chicago’s goal, as the ball was hit with not much pace, although it was back against the direction he was moving. He finished with two saves, one clearance, and 77% passing accuracy.

D, Robin Jansson, 5 — Like his partners in defense, the Swede looked more and more ill-at-ease as the game wore on in his return from injury. He allowed Hugo Cuypers to get goal-side of him for the equalizing strike, and looked like he just fell asleep on the play. He had one tackle, one block, three clearances, one foul committed, and one yellow card on the defensive end, which will earn him a suspension for card accumulation, preventing his participation Saturday in New York. Going forward, he completed a dribble, drew a foul, provided a key pass, and passed with 85% accuracy, while showing some uncharacteristic sloppiness with the ball — something that plagued the entire team.

D, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 Once again deployed as a center back, Cartagena had an okay night at the back, but we’ve seen better. For defensive statistics, he recorded two tackles, two clearances, one block, one interception, and one foul committed. His 80% passing accuracy wasn’t great though, and he looked uncharacteristically sloppy when trying to find his teammates and build out of the back. He was also partly at fault for Cuyper’s goal, as he failed to provide cover for David Brekalo, who stepped up to provide pressure on the ball. That counts as the major blemish on his night, alongside his passing accuracy.

D, David Brekalo, 6 The Slovenian was the best of the three center backs in this one. The highlight of his night was an outstanding tackle on Cuypers in the 68th minute to stonewall him and prevent what surely would have been a dangerous shot. He finished with three tackles, a team-high five clearances, one foul committed, two fouls drawn, one completed dribble, and a passing accuracy of 85%. I’d really like to see what a partnership of him and Jansson are able to do in a four-man back line, as we haven’t really had the chance to see that due to various injuries.

WB, Facundo Torres, 6 Torres grabbed the lone goal courtesy of one of the strangest goalmouth scrambles I’ve ever witnessed. Aside from that though, he didn’t carry a ton of danger himself, and instead did more work setting others up for chances. His highlight in that regard was serving up a cross on a platter for Luis Muriel that the latter headed directly at the goalkeeper just moments before Chicago’s equalizer. We know he’s capable of creating for himself and scoring, and he continues to look largely neutered in the wingback role he’s being asked to play, though he should have ended Wednesday night with a goal and an assist. Like most of OCSC’s other players, Torres struggled with sloppiness on the ball at times, and his distribution wasn’t his best. He was still able to provide three key passes, take three shots (one on target, two blocked), and passed with 83% accuracy. He contributed two tackles on defense, but the Lions need him at the other end of the field.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 5.5 Lodeiro, like most of the team, had an evening that he’ll want to forget. He chipped in on the defensive side with two tackles, an interception, and a clearance, but it just wasn’t happening for him going forward, aside from a well-timed pass to send Ivan Angulo behind the defense on a play that would draw a penalty 99 times out of 100. He took one shot that was blocked and drew a foul, but the big issue was his passing. His 84% success rate wasn’t awful, but on several occasions he delivered the ball directly to a Fire player (he had plenty of company in doing that) and just couldn’t seem to get on the same page as his teammates. One of his better passes was to Torres in the first half on a play that was ultimately called back for offside against the Uruguayan.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 Cesar did pretty much everything he could have been expected to from a defensive standpoint. He finished with a team-high four tackles, was second on the team with four clearances, and also had an interception and a block. He drew four fouls while not committing any of his own, but his 84% passing accuracy left something to be desired. Like most of his teammates, he just looked out-of-sync on several occasions, delivering the ball straight to an opponent, and it was more noticeable due to how safe he typically is with the ball.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 (MotM) Angulo had a lively evening, and was involved in almost everything Orlando did well going forward. His combination down the right with Muriel in the first half led to Torres’ goal, and just after the half hour mark he intercepted a ball near midfield and bore down on goal, but seemed to be caught between passing and shooting, and the ball he ended up playing went harmlessly behind for a goal kick. He should have won a penalty kick after evading Chris Brady and being fouled from behind by Federico Navarro, but no decision was forthcoming. His night finished with two shots (one off target, one blocked), four completed dribbles, two key passes, two fouls drawn, and 91% passing accuracy.

WB, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 5.5 This formation doesn’t seem to suit Dagur Dan’s attacking skills. He’s versatile and played well as a right back last year, but the in-between nature of the wingback role looks like its doing him more harm than good. He was too slow to track Arnaud Souquet’s run, who crossed for Cuypers to fire home, and that’s the big blip against him in this one. He finished with one tackle and two clearances defensively, while completing a dribble and passing with a team-best 95% accuracy on offense. I think he’d really benefit from either being a fullback or a midfielder, instead of a mix between the two.

F, Martin Ojeda, 4.5 Asked to play as the second striker alongside Muriel, things just weren’t happening for Ojeda. Whether it was a ball that wouldn’t fully bounce his way, or a pass that was just off the mark, it was yet another case of so close, yet so far. He finished with one tackle, one foul committed, one foul drawn, and 85% passing accuracy. The lack of key passes or shots is indicative of the difficulties he had, and you simply have to get more out of a Designated Player. Given how involved Ramiro Enrique was during his short time on the field, Ojeda’s night is that much tougher to swallow.

F, Luis Muriel, 5.5 — Like most of his teammates, it was a frustrating performance from Muriel. He did some good things and showed plenty of flashes of the quality that he has, but ultimately wasn’t able to impact the scoresheet. His night was perhaps best summed up by his powerful 77th minute header, that would surely have been a goal if he’d put it anywhere but straight at the goalkeeper. He also was maddeningly reluctant to shoot. I’m all for a striker who wants to create for others, but sometimes you can’t look for the perfect opening and just need to hit the damn ball. He recorded two tackles, one clearance, one shot (on target), two fouls drawn, and 84% passing accuracy.

Substitutes

F, Ramiro Enrique, (79′), N/A Enrique came on for Muriel with just over 10 minutes to play, and looked lively and dangerous during his time on the field. He made an excellent run from midfield as the game wound down, but fired his shot a bit off target. He finished with one completed dribble, one off-target shot, and completed the lone pass that he attempted.

D, Rafael Santos, (79′), N/A Santos entered the fray in place of Ojeda, and did what was asked of him. He recorded one tackle, one clearance, one foul drawn, and a key pass, while accurately delivering 75% of his passes to their destination.

MF, Kyle Smith, (90′ + 2), N/A Smith subbed on for Dagur Dan with the game in its final stages. He completed one of his three passes, sending the other two directly to a Fire player but helped Orlando get out of Chicago with a point.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski, (90′ + 2), N/A Kocevski came on for Torres in the dying stages of the game. He completed the one pass he attempted and helped the Lions see out the remaining time on the clock.


That’s how I saw the individual performances from a largely frustrating evening in Chicago. Feel free to voice your thoughts on how the players did down in the comments, and be sure to vote in our Man of the Match poll. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City at Chicago Fire: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s disappointing draw with the Chicago Fire?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled to the Windy City with a good chance to take home all three points. That wasn’t the case, as the Lions allowed a second-half goal and drew the Chicago Fire 1-1 at Soldier Field. It wouldn’t be an Orlando City match if there wasn’t controversy involving the referee and video review, but we’ll get to that soon enough. What follows are my immediate takeaways from a sloppy and frustrating draw on the road.

Ugly Goals Still Count

It’s been a hot minute since Facundo Torres has scored a goal, but he didn’t have to wait too long in this match to get back on the board. Ivan Angulo and Luis Muriel combined in the attacking midfield to get into the final third with the ball finding Torres in the box. At that point he took too many touches, got closed down, and it became a scrum in front of goal. After the ball pinged in, out, and all around, Torres found himself climbing off the pitch, only to take squib of a shot while falling down that somehow got through the tangle of legs and went into the bottom left corner of the goal. It was ugly, but exactly what Orlando City needed to get things started.

Defensive Holes Evident

I will admit that my prediction was wrong. I thought that the return of Robin Jansson would mean that Oscar Pareja would go back to the 4-2-3-1 formation he usually deployed. Instead, he stayed with the 3-5-2 he’s used the last several matches, with Jansson playing on the left of the three-man back line. Chicago is not a very good attacking team, but the Fire consistently found space in the box, and made Orlando City pay for it in the 70th minute. Good thing there wasn’t a video review decision that impacted the match. Oh wait.

Another Brick in the Wall

Orlando City was once again the victim of poor officiating and inconsistent application of video review in calling penalties. Angulo took a nice pass from Nico Lodeiro, slipped between two Chicago defenders, made his way into the box, made a move around the keeper, and then was fouled…twice. The keeper clipped him, and then the defender fouled him from behind. I thought it was a penalty, the commentators on Apple TV+ thought it was a penalty, and everyone except Fire fans, PRO referees, video assistant referee Edvin Jurisevic, and Don Garber thought it was a penalty. Unfortunately, it’s just another example of the “if it helps Orlando City, it’s not a foul/penalty” that we have seen so many times this season. Not only should it have been a penalty, it should have been a sending off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.

Poor Passing

Much of the match, Orlando City looked like a team not on the same page. Too many times players tried to be too clever when making a pass. Too many times the ball was played into spaces allowing a turnover. Too many explicit turnovers. Too many heavy passes, too many light passes — none of it what we expect from this team. Don’t let the 83% team passing percentage fool you. This was a disorganized team when in possession playing against Chicago.

Tired Legs or Tired Minds?

This match was Orlando City’s sixth match of the month. That is a lot of games. I’m not certain that the team looked tired when running, but as I noted above, the passing wasn’t good and that can come from your brain being tired. A tired player will try to do something they shouldn’t, thinking they can, or take too long to do what they should do. How many times did a player take way too much time to even think about taking a shot? Orlando City usually generates plenty of chances on goal. Against Chicago, the Lions only managed eight shots with two on goal. It was all just not crisp enough.


Those are the things I observed in the once-again frustrating draw against the Fire. Let us know in the comments below what stood out to you. As always, vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/30/24

Orlando City draws on the road, Duncan McGuire called up, Grace Chanda will reportedly sign with the Orlando Pride, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

For those of you who watched Orlando City’s game Wednesday night, I hope the universe repays you with good fortune in some way today. The week rolls on though, as we get ready for more Orlando soccer this weekend, along with international friendlies around the world to enjoy. For now though, let’s get to the links!

Orlando City Draws Against the Chicago Fire

The Lions went on the road and had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire. Neither goal was anything to write home about in a match that was highlighted by sloppy play and yet another controversial refereeing decision the Lions had to deal with. A draw on the road while on short rest generally isn’t the worst result in the world, but it was a poor performance from the Lions. They’ll aim to get back in the winning column this Saturday when they travel to play the New York Red Bulls.

Duncan McGuire Called Up For Training Camp

Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire was one of 25 players called up for the United States Men’s Olympic Soccer Team’s training camp ahead of a friendly with Japan on June 11. McGuire has earned his spot on the team during a solid second season with the Lions that has included five goals. Columbus Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte, Koln forward Damion Downs, and LA Galaxy defender Jalen Neal are a few of the other notable players called up. Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman is the only player over 23 that was called up for this camp.

Grace Chanda Will Reportedly Join the Pride

An agreement was reportedly reached between the Orlando Pride and Zambian attacker Grace Chanda for her to join the club on a deal through 2025, with an option for 2026 as well. It would be a free transfer, but she would not join the Pride until after the Olympics. Chanda was named to the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Best XI and was also on the shortlist for the 2022 Best CAF Women’s Player of the Year Award. The 26-year-old did not play in last year’s World Cup due to an illness, but has come off the bench in Madrid CFF’s past two games. The Pride are having a historic year and Chanda should help them push for a title if she does end up joining her international teammate, Barbra Banda.

Getting to Know Emily Sams

Pride defender Emily Sams is the latest player to field questions as part of the club’s video series for fans to learn more about the players. Sams spoke about the disappointment in how the team’s season ended last year after missing out on the playoffs on a goal differential tiebreaker. She also talked about the team’s aspiration to not only make the playoffs but contend for a title this year. It’s her second season with the Pride and she’s been a key reason why Orlando has done so well so far. Sams discussed what the team’s atmosphere is like, as well as how she likes to spend time outdoors exploring Orlando’s many lakes when not on the field.

Free Kicks


That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week.

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