Orlando City announced today that Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato will miss three to six weeks after undergoing a successful procedure on his knee today. Per the club, the procedure was performed by Dr. Craig Mintzer, City’s chief medical officer and orthopedic surgeon, at Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute in downtown Orlando.
With this timetable, the Brazilian wouldn’t be able to return to training until at least May 25, and one could reasonably expect at least two weeks after that for him to return to sufficient fitness levels to appear in a match. The recovery could keep him out of training until as long as June 15, which would put him on a timeline to return — worst case scenario — around the July 3 match vs. New York Red Bulls or July 8 at Chicago.
Pato was originally injured in the season-opening draw against Atlanta United, when he landed awkwardly and went down holding the back of his knee.
“But wait,” I hear you saying. “Didn’t Orlando City say Pato wouldn’t need surgery?”
Pato update: Club confirmed this morning he suffered a lower body injury in Saturday's match, but won't require surgery. No official timetable on his recovery at the moment, but I'll keep updating as we go.
— Julia Poe (@byjuliapoe) April 19, 2021
Yes, yes they did. Lion Nation seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief at the news in late April that Pato’s injury wasn’t deemed serious enough to require surgery, because the non-contact injury seemed concerning when it took place.
Pato had been listed as ‘questionable’ the last couple of games, rather than ‘out’ or even ‘doubtful,’ indicating his return might come at any time. However, it’s possible that his condition may have worsened — or simply failed to improve — during his rehab and a procedure (or surgery) became necessary after all.
Today’s news won’t assuage Orlando City fans’ degrading trust in the Lions’ injury reporting. It’s not that unusual for a sports team to be reluctant to divulge injury specifics, but Orlando City has notably become more and more vague about it over the last two years. The club now favors the use of “lower body injury” over virtually any mention of an actual body part, even in cases when fans can clearly see a player grabbing the specific source of pain during a match, such as a knee or a hamstring.
What I’m saying is that we here at The Mane Land understand fans’ frustration with this practice — as well as Major League Soccer’s tolerance of it — and, as someone who reports on the team, I personally share that frustration because we get asked about it constantly. I look through the injury reports every week and there are some other teams that use this practice. But many teams don’t see a problem announcing more specific information. By way of example, FC Cincinnati, Orlando’s last opponent, announced a hamstring, a hip flexor, a sports hernia, and an arm injury ahead of Saturday’s match.
What It Means for Orlando City
Pato’s recovery will require Tesho Akindele to shoulder the bulk of the Lions’ striker responsibilities for the time being. Akindele is coming off his best performance this season so far. Against Cincinnati Saturday night, he scored a goal, was energetic on the press, and excelled in holding up play for his teammates.
Behind Akindele, the Lions still have little-used Matheus Aias and recently signed rookie Derek Dodson as true strikers on the roster, while Benji Michel can also fill in at that spot if necessary.
Daryl Dike’s loan will expire after Barnsley’s run in the Championship playoffs, so he could return to Orlando before Pato comes back. In the meantime, all City fans will be hoping Pato’s recovery is closer to three weeks than six. Injury was always the biggest risk with the 31-year-old when he signed a club-friendly deal on Feb. 13, as Pato had some issues with fitness in the past. Hopefully this will turn out to be the biggest bump in his Orlando City career.