Matías Pérez García wasn’t officially a Lion until hours before the end of the summer transfer window, but the Argentinian produced more for Orlando City in two months than he did for San Jose all season prior.
MPG came to Orlando in a swap for former centerpiece Darwin Cerén, who fell out of favor following the appointment of Jason Kreis mid-season. It wasn’t a like-for-like trade, as Pérez García brings a much more attacking-minded presence than Cerén, and the Argentine didn’t take long to fit in alongside Kaká and Kevin Molino.
After appearing in 14 games for San Jose pre-trade, MPG made 13 appearances for City following his cross-country move -- 10 of which were starts, more than he saw for the Quakes. MPG hit on 82.1% of his passes for Orlando this year, 2.2 of which per game came in the form of key passes (passes leading to an attempt at goal).
MPG’s debut against Seattle immediately established him as a bright spot for Orlando, and he would go on to register two assists and draw 2.6 fouls per match, per WhoScored. García’s ability to draw fouls set the Lions up for free kicks in dangerous areas and his chemistry with Kaká and Molino made City’s attack even more potent, as the Lions finished with the third-most goals in MLS.
MPG’s best outing came in a 90-minute showing at Montreal that ended in an emphatic 4-1 Lions win. García powered the Lions with two assists that evening, as his attacking mates Kaká, Cyle Larin, and Carlos Rivas all wound up with goals on the night. It was an inspiring performance from the whole team, and the first goal explosion for Orlando since MPG’s addition a month earlier.
2016 Final Rating
The Mane Land staff awarded MPG with a solid 7 for his efforts in 2016. He provided a boost to the City offense right off the bat, proving to be a more natural fit in the lineup than Brek Shea after he was shifted forward to midfield from fullback. The sample size was not great, but it wasn’t tiny either, and Pérez García showed well in his two months with Orlando despite missing out on the playoffs.
MPG figures to be an integral part of the Orlando City attack moving forward.
After playing as a substitute in two of his first three OCSC appearances, he started nine of his last 10 games and went a full 90 minutes in five of them and 87 in another. He fits well with the style of play that Kreis wants to continue to implement, and the addition of his skill alongside Kaká and Molino upgraded the attacking trio that operated behind Larin and Rivas.
MPG has a knack for getting into dangerous spots and drawing harm from opposition defenders, and his natural ability to thread passes gave Orlando three players capable of kick-starting the attack along with Ricky and The Original. His strength at the No. 10 position also opened things up a bit for Kaká, as it allowed him to slide out to his favored left side and operate in his comfort zone.
While his two assists aren’t eye-popping proof of his fit within the Lions’ attack, it was obvious to those who watched that MPG was a positive addition to the side late in the season. He looks primed to play a significant role in 2017.