Orlando City signed veteran Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato on Feb. 13 — less than two weeks after sending Daryl Dike on loan to Barnsley in the English Championship — in part to fill in for Dike while he was away (or if he was sold), and to upgrade the attack. The other striker options on the team were backup Tesho Akindele, unproven Matheus Aias, and draft pick Derek Dodson. Orlando was able to get the talented former Sao Paulo man for less than a Targeted Allocation Money-level salary but with easy-to-reach incentives that were likely to push his salary into TAM territory.
However, after a promising preseason, Pato injured his knee late in the season opener against Atlanta — eventually requiring surgery that was estimated to keep him out up to six weeks. However, various setbacks in his recovery caused him to miss nearly the entire remainder of the 2021 schedule. Let’s take a look at his first season with the Lions.
Pato managed just four appearances in 2021 (one start), logging only 106 minutes played. He did not have a goal contribution, firing three shots (one on target) and passed at a 50% success rate as he struggled to settle into a comfort level with his teammates in so few minutes. Pato was offside once and defensively he recorded one clearance. He did not commit a foul while drawing two from the opposition.
The Brazilian also came off the bench in Orlando City’s playoff match at Nashville, logging 10 minutes and passing at an 83.3% rate, drawing a foul (and a yellow card) on the hosts as Orlando looked for a tying goal late.
There’s honestly such a small sample size here. It’s tempting to go with the opening game because he played the most minutes, or the home game against Nashville because of his superb free kick that crashed off the woodwork and set up what should have been a winning goal that was incredibly overturned upon review by referee Allen Chapman.
However, I’ll say his best game came in his brief playoff appearance at Nashville. Pato looked more fluid and comfortable and was able to use a slick move to force Jalil Anibaba to pull him down, giving the Nashville defender a yellow card and Orlando City a free kick opportunity as time wound down with the Lions down a goal. He had his best passing performance, at 83.3%, although that was only on six attempts, with Pato completing five of them. Though it was a short appearance, fans got a glimpse of the fluidity and skill of Pato’s game.
2021 Final Grade
Because of his low total of minutes played, The Mane Land staff must give Pato an incomplete grade for 2021. We may never know what the 2021 season could have been like if he’d stayed healthy instead of sustaining a non-contact injury while jumping to avoid a challenge on opening day against Atlanta. A healthy Pato, combining with Nani and Mauricio Pereyra, could have been amazing and with Nani already departing, there’s no chance of seeing that now.
Orlando City announced Pato’s signing as a one-year deal through 2021. Our sources indicated to us before the signing was announced, and reiterated after the signing, that the deal included an option year. Whether the club didn’t announce an option year because there isn’t one or just by choice is unclear. Pato went through a lot in 2021 to get back on the field by the end of the season. No doubt Luiz Muzzi and Oscar Pareja would like to see what a healthy Pato can do. His 2021 guaranteed compensation was $272,727.00, which was less than that of Emmanuel Mas, and only slightly more than Alexander Alvarado’s. It’s unlikely he made many (if any) of his contract incentives. The team could do worse than bring back Pato and hope for a bit better luck in the injury department, however, the Lions will need to hedge their bets and find another option. With a possible sale of Dike this off-season and Aias being on loan, there will be some new faces coming to the striker position in 2022 whether Pato stays or goes.