How Robinho’s unexpected first season in MLS brought him to Orlando City

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Orlando City SC

Orlando City SC midfielder Robinho (95) looks to kick the ball during the second half against the New York Red Bulls at Exploria Stadium on July 21, 2019. Photo: Douglas DeFelice / USA TODAY Sports

New Orlando City winger Robinho was subtle but sincere when he was asked what his initial thoughts were when he heard he was being traded from the Columbus Crew earlier this month.

“Honestly, I was just looking forward to that to happen,” Robinho told reporters through a translator before Wednesday’s training session. “I was very happy and pleased with the interest. I’m just looking at the future, I’m not going to look back for now.”

His answer in his native Portuguese was kept short and simple but for Orlando’s newest attacker, his journey through his first season in Major League Soccer came with some unmet expectations.

According to Orlando City’s Director of Scouting, Ricardo Moreira speaking to the Orlando Soccer Journal, Robinho initially signed a pre-contract in August 2018 with the Crew ahead of next season when then-head coach Gregg Berhalter was at the helm.

The months that followed after the 2018 MLS season saw Berhalter leave the Crew to coach the United States men’s national team as Columbus brought in Caleb Porter ahead of the 2019 season.

For Robinho, who was officially announced as a Crew player in January, the coaching transition at Columbus came unexpected, but it opened an opportunity for Orlando during the league’s secondary transfer window, according to Moreira.

“We saw an opportunity,” Moreira told OSJ. “We saw he wasn’t playing, he wasn’t starting. He wasn’t getting that involved and he had positional attributes that we thought we needed for our club and for the depth of our squad.”

“I can’t say for Columbus what happened when he got there, but my impression, he was expecting the technical staff to give him more support in terms of Gregg [Berhalter] being there and Josh [Wolff]… those guys that believed in him,” Moreira added. “Not that Caleb didn’t give him support, I think he started really well there, seeing from Columbus, they needed to rebuild the squad with their new vision, with their new goals.”

Robinho played 19 games and started in 13 with the Crew this season before Orlando City sent $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) on July 10 to Columbus in exchange for the Brazilian winger.

Orlando’s interest in Robinho, though, was the right fit, according to Moreira.

“I think it was a natural move,” he said. “I think the way Columbus is structuring the team, I think it’s a natural move. I think the way Robinho wants to his life and career to be in MLS, coming to Orlando to play was the right fit because he can adapt both in the left or right wing.”

Robinho made his debut last Thursday on July 18 during a match at Providence Park against the Portland Timbers — where he helped set up Santiago Patiño’s opening goal. He also played the following game last Sunday when entered as a second-half substitute against the New York Red Bulls

For Lions head coach James O’Connor, he’s been pleased from what he’s seen from Robinho so far.

“He’s obviously come in and he’s done very well,” said O’Connor. “He got the start in Portland. He’s got a good pace, good awareness. He’s got good quick feet, he’s very good 1-v-1, so there are some attributes we feel he’ll be able to help us with.”

“It’s going take him a little bit of time just to get used to the guys and different movements, but he’s someone we’ve been very pleased with the short time he’s been here.”


For more soccer news, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer

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