The new-look Orlando City SC might start its Major League Soccer campaign on March 3 against D.C. United without one of its main pieces as striker Dom Dwyer picked up a quadriceps injury in preseason and may not be ready to play by the season opener.
Dwyer’s absence, though, could clear the way for Orlando City fans to see firsthand one of the team’s new faces as Brazilian forward Stéfano Pinho appears to be the obvious choice to replace the Englishman if he really can’t play.
A two-time NASL Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner, Pinho, 27, was signed from Miami FC to be an effective option off the bench to add to the team's firepower, but Dwyer’s injury might grant him an opportunity to start before he even imagined.
“I can’t wait for the start of the season and to play for Orlando City,” he told the media last weekend. “I work hard every day to get my chance. I hope Dom gets better soon. He’s a great player and he helps us a lot. If I can play, it will be amazing, but if not, I’ll be waiting for my chance.”
With Dwyer sidelined because of his injury, Pinho has logged significant minutes in the team’s friendlies and scrimmages during preseason. Last Saturday, the forward scored in the Lions’ scrimmage against Real Salt Lake, a goal that boosted his confidence.
“I got a chance to score and that’s amazing for my confidence, it makes me play better,” he said after the scrimmage. “The guys have confidence in me and I hope I can score more goals and help the team. MLS is a new challenge for me and playing against these teams just makes me better.”
The 2018 version of the Lions is expected to be a blessing to whowever fills the No. 9 spot during the season. With a bunch of talented midfielders such as Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram, Josué Colmán and Yoshimar Yotún controlling the ball, odds are Orlando’s forwards will have several opportunities to score.
With that and his background in mind, Pinho is not shy on setting the bar high for himself in his first MLS season.
“My goal would be to score 10 goals or more this season,” he added. “I always think about double-digits in my career, so I hope I can score a lot of goals.”