Two things influenced Mauricio Pereyra’s decision to join Orlando City late in the 2019 MLS season: The objective of helping the Lions reach the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time, and most importantly, the thought about living in the United States with his wife and two kids.
Speaking with the Orlando Soccer Journal before Monday’s training session, Pereyra spoke about why he chose to leave the Russian Premier League for Major League Soccer and the steps he’s taking to inch closer to his debut with the Lions.
“I liked the project the sporting director and coach relayed over to me,” said Pereyra. “It was the opportunity of helping the team reach the playoffs for the first time, and I want to be a part of that. But also, this city is beautiful and in regards to my family, I want my kids to be here for a while to enjoy it.”
Pereyra, 29, signed as a designated player with Orlando on July 30 after 6 1/2 years playing with Russian club FC Krasnodar — officially leaving in May after his contract expired.
While his wife and two kids are back in Uruguay, for now, Pereyra said he’s fully aware of the MLS landscape and the Uruguayan contingent that’s present across the league, including the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake.
“I know Nicolás Lodeiro (Sounders), we played together at the youth level and we came up with Nacional,” he said. “Even at the U-20 level with the national team, where I also played with Marcelo Silva who plays at Real Salt Lake. Uruguayans, we may be few, but we all know each other personally, but also know we’ve done well in MLS.”
Returning to match fitness, however, is the biggest thing keeping Pereyra from playing his first game with Orlando. The Uruguayan attacking midfielder last played a competitive game in May and is slowly getting back to par.
Visa paperwork as well has kept Pereyra at a standstill but expects to have all the required documents finalized on Monday, according to Pereyra and team officials.
“Physically, honestly, I’m not at 100% because I haven’t had a preseason with the team,” said Pereyra. “‘I’m trying to get on-point regarding that matter, but from a soccer standpoint, I really want to be playing already and have the ‘Ganas’ to get where I want to be.”
Orlando coach James O’Connor said Pereyra played an “in-house game” on Saturday while the team was in Toronto and is beginning to show signs of progress.
“He was able to get 30 minutes, so trying to manage him is probably the biggest thing,” said O’Connor. “… he’s getting a lot closer, so it’ll be touch-and-go. For Wednesday, we’ll see, maybe. But he’s definitely starting to get where we need him to get.”
Pereyra was brought in to make an impact as Orlando looks to close out the 2019 season, EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a statement when Pereyra was announced late last month.
For Orlando City’s new DP, he hopes to make an impact once he’s ready to step on the field.
“Anyone who comes to a new team arrives with the intentions of helping out somewhere on the pitch,” said Pereyra. “I just have to be ready to receive orders from the coach that way we can reach our big objectives, which is making the playoffs.
“My intentions are to help wherever I’m inserted on the field and with the minutes I’m given, I look to give my full potential to help win games.”
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