Over the past two seasons, Orlando City has created a trend of signing lower-league players that knocked the team out of the U.S. Open Cup — if two instances make a trend. Following the 2016 season, the team signed Brazilian defender PC, who scored the extra time winner for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Last off-season, it signed Stéfano Pinho, who had netted a hat trick against the Lions for the NASL’s Miami FC.
Despite being a rookie in the country’s first division, Pinho was always going to play a key role in 2018. The club drafted Chris Mueller with its first pick of the MLS SuperDraft, but it was soon obvious that he was a better fit in the midfield. That left just Dom Dwyer and Pinho as the team’s two strikers.
The best word to describe Pinho’s 2018 season is inconsistent. The striker started the season well, with his first MLS goal being a last-second equalizer in the first game of the season against D.C. United. However, as the season reached its midpoint, Pinho began to struggle. He did have some nice performances off the bench near the end of the year, but it would be considered a disappointing season overall.
Pinho took part in 23 games during the 2018 MLS season, starting five, and playing 595 minutes. Usually coming in as a sub inside the final half hour, the striker only played 90 minutes in one game. Only six of his 18 shots were on target and while he scored only two goals on the year, they were crucial ones. In the first game of the season, Pinho came on for the final 32 minutes and netted an equalizer three minutes into injury time. His second goal came in July when the Lions controversially fell to the Columbus Crew. While it wasn’t a winning goal, it did give the Lions the lead in the game.
He passed at a 76.4% rate, creating only a couple of chances for his teammates. Defensively, he averaged 0.2 tackles, 0.2 interceptions, and 0.2 clearances per game, committing eight fouls while drawing five. He received no yellow or red cards on the season.
In the U.S. Open Cup, Pinho took part in all three games, starting two, and playing 193 total minutes. His best performance in the Open Cup came when the Lions traveled south to face Miami United. Playing all 90 minutes, Pinho took four shots with two on goal and scored in the team’s 3-0 win.
Pinho’s best game of 2018 came on July 21 when the Lions faced the Columbus Crew in Ohio — ultimately a 3-2 loss assisted by an incorrect referee decision. In the only league game in which he played all 90 minutes, the striker played an important role in what should’ve been a key play in the game. The Lions took the early lead when Sacha Kljestan scored in the 16th minute, only to see Gyasi Zardes equalize in the 51st. In the 58th minute, the Lions forced a turnover deep in their own third and quickly countered.
Cristian Higuita found Yoshimar Yotún, who played it forward to Kljestan, who was making a diagonal run. The midfielder quickly played it across to Pinho and the 27-year-old one-timed it into the back of the net, giving the Lions the lead.
Unfortunately, the game turned on a poor decision in the 88th when Silviu Petrescu awarded the hosts a penalty, allowing the Crew to equalize and go on to win the game in injury time.
In addition to being the only MLS game where he played all 90 minutes and one of two in which he scored, it was also his most accurate performance. Both of Pinho’s shots taken in this game were on target and one ended up in the back of the net. It was the only game of the season where the striker had more than one shot on target. He passed at only a 67% rate, but won three aerials and added a clearance on the defensive end. He received a 6.5 in our player grades piece that night.
2018 Final Grade
Pinho had stretches of the 2018 season where he was good and provided energy off the bench. He played well at the beginning of the season and again at the end of it, but struggled for many games in between. In the end, he scored just two goals in MLS play this year and had no assists. That’s a difficult statistic to look past when you’re one of the team’s two primary strikers on the roster. For that reason, The Mane Staff gave Pinho a collective grade of 3.5 for the 2018 MLS season. We should know later this month whether the Lions are bringing him back.
As with many players, it’s difficult to say whether Pinho will be back in 2019. There will likely be many changes coming as James O’Connor attempts to build the team he wants to work with. Considering the way he played in 2018 and his guaranteed compensation of $183,333 this season, it’s difficult to see the 27-year-old returning for a second season in purple.
Previous Orlando City Season in Review Posts (Date Posted)
- Cam Lindley (10/31)
- Tony Rocha (11/1)
- Cristian Higuita (11/2)
- Joe Bendik (11/3)
- Jose Villareal (11/3)
- Dillon Powers (11/4)
- Chris Mueller (11/5)
- Mohamed El-Munir (11/6)
- PC (11/6)
- Jonathan Spector (11/7)
- Will Johnson (11/8)
- Chris Schuler (11/9)
- Earl Edwards, Jr. (11/9)
- Josué Colmán (11/10)
- Donny Toia (11/10)
- Lamine Sané (11/11)