Orlando City‘s 12-game unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday against Inter Miami CF. If not for an 89th minute game-winner from Leonardo Gonzalez Pirez, the Lions would have picked up a fourth consecutive draw to keep the streak alive.
In each of the last four games, notably, Orlando City has missed one decidedly key element of their lineup: midfielder Mauricio Pereyra.
The Uruguayan No. 10 has been sidelined since leaving during halftime in Orlando City’s last victory — a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls back on October 3rd. And since then, the Lions have struggled mightily without their offensive catalyst in the lineup, going 0-1-3 with just three goals scored in that span.
Without Pereyra, the Lions have scored the third fewest goals in Major League Soccer (not counting the Colorado Rapids, which have only played one game this month due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the club), above only Atlanta United (2 goals in five games) and FC Dallas (1 goal in four games).
By contrast, going back to the start of the MLS is Back tournament through that Red Bulls victory, in which Pereyra suffered an undisclosed injury, Orlando City trailed only LAFC with the second most goals in the league, scoring 26 times.
Injuries have hampered the Lions over the last several weeks, as evident by the recent drop in form and quality results. Joao Moutinho has been out since leaving with an injury against Atlanta back on August 29. Uri Rosell picked up a knock a week later and hasn’t seen the field since either.
Both players are important to Orlando City’s offensive success. Moutinho is one of the league’s best attacking fullbacks and a key player for the Lions, controlling possession on the left side and being a play-maker in the final third from that wing. Without Rosell, Orlando doesn’t have someone in the midfield to act as a connector between the backline and the attacking half of the field. Rosell is someone that touches the ball more often than anyone else on the field, can distribute forward effectively and kick-start attacks.
Orlando City was able to survive without those two, however, up until Pereyra’s injury. Without a true No. 10, the shortcoming become more evident.
The Lions have struggled to create quality chances over their last several games. A quick look at the last four goals, none have come from midfield chances: a cross from Ruan to Chris Mueller; a penalty kick goal from Nani, and a long-ball from the back by Antonio Carlos to Daryl Dike.
Against Miami, Orlando only put two shots on target. Mueller has gone silent for the most part, and Andres Perea, despite some quality, isn’t a No. 10 and a person you can expect to step in and fill the large shoes left by Pereyra. Nani has been forced to focus more on creating chances rather than scoring them, a reliance that doesn’t help Orlando in the long run. In Pereyra’s absence, Nani has led the team in key passes (8), but doesn’t have any assists to show for it, with just one goal of his own — that aforementioned penalty kick.
At this point, we still don’t have a real diagnosis on Pereyra’s injury, however, on Monday, Oscar Pareja provided a positive update on Pereyra.
Pareja says Mauricio Pereyra is training with the team already, still questionable for Wednesday he adds. #OrlandoCity— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) October 26, 2020
But as recent results have shown, if Orlando City is to have any hope of making a serious playoff run when the regular season ends in two weeks, they’re going to need their true No. 10 to make it happen.
For more coverage, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer