After a successful 2017 Major League Soccer debut, defeating New York City FC 1-0 at the new downtown stadium last Sunday, Orlando City SC will have a big challenge to face in the upcoming weeks. With captain Kaká sidelined for six weeks because of a left hamstring injury, the Lions will have to make arrangements on their offensive system to remain competitive.
Even though it hurts the team, Kaká’s absence also brings an opportunity for other players to step up their games. One of them is 32-year-old Argentinean Matías Pérez García.
MPG, as he is known in MLS, joined the Lions in August 2016 in a trade with the San Jose Earthquakes and played 14 games with the team, most of them either as a right or a left attacking midfielder, recording two assists, both in the 4-1 win over the Montreal Impact.
At 5-foot-5, Pérez García is the prototypical Argentinean play-maker, with great technique, solid speed, smart movement, and a good touch for set pieces.
“He is a very talented player. His technique, his ability, his creativity, everything that he puts on the field is good”, said Kaká to MLSSoccer.com last year.
The Brazilian’s presence, though, prevents MPG from playing in the role of central attacking midfielder, where he has been most productive throughout his career. With the Lions captain out for over a month and the absence of Kevin Molino, who was eventually used in the role as well, the Argentinean could slide into that position and show what he is capable of.
MPG’s career stats show that he is most efficient when playing as a typical No. 10, or as an enganche, as they say in his native country, where he can make the most of his passing and shooting skills.
In this role, he amassed 16 goals and 10 assists in 77 appearances with Argentine side Tigre from 2012 to 2014. In 2015, his first full MLS season with the Earthquakes, he recorded two goals and seven assists from the No. 10 position.
If Head Coach Jason Kreis confirms newcomer Giles Barnes as Kaká’s replacement and MPG is moved to the center, the Lions could have a dangerous front line with the Argentinean feeding both speedy Barnes and Carlos Rivas on the wings and Cyle Larin up front.
It is unlikely that Pérez García could replicate Kaká’s numbers (18 goals and 17 assists in 53 games), but the Argentinean is likely to improve his production if moved to his favorite role on the field and he might not have a better opportunity than this to do so. That could boost his confidence and provide the Lions’ offense new options going forward on the season.