Orlando City acquired Uruguayan midfielder Mauricio Pereyra on July 30 on a free transfer from his former club, FC Krasnodar in Russia. Pereyra had been mulling over some offers in Spain but in the end chose Orlando City, becoming a Designated Player due to the availability of a slot and a lack of available Targeted Allocation Money.
The Uruguayan wasn’t fit when he arrived, owing to having ended his season months prior, so his introduction took a bit of time and then he picked up a knock. However, even when he was only partially fit enough to play, he showed quality vision and passing skills.
So, how did he rate in his short season?
Pereyra appeared in only six matches (five starts) in 2019, tallying 394 minutes. He didn’t score a goal but he managed three assists to tie for fifth on the team with guys who had played about a thousand more minutes than he did. The 29-year-old attempted only three shots, getting one on target. His passing accuracy was just 78% for the six games he played but that was not much time to get used to new teammates’ movement and in fairness, sometimes they just didn’t see the openings that he did. His 2.2 key passes per game was second on the team only to Nani’s 2.3.
Defensively, he averaged 1.5 tackles, 0.7 interceptions, and 0.3 clearances per match. He committed nine fouls, suffered five, and received one yellow card.
It’s tough to pick a best game for the Uruguayan — his highest rating was a 6.5 on a couple of occasions — as he played mostly half-games but I’m going with the season finale against Chicago. Despite the fact it was a lopsided loss, Pereyra’s role was rarely part of the cause of the plays that ended up in Orlando’s net. Pereyra set up the game’s first goal by anticipating Benji Michel’s run in behind the defense.
He also should have assisted a second goal by Tesho Akindele but the Canadian striker left his shot too close to the goalkeeper. His dummy froze three defenders and put Michel through to set up yet another chance.
2019 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff couldn’t give a season grade to Pereyra in 2019 due to the midfielder playing fewer than 400 minutes on the year. Considering he wasn’t fully match fit yet for more than half of his appearances, it’s safe to say we still haven’t seen the true Pereyra just yet. Pereyra played 90 minutes in only his final two appearances of the season.
Orlando City will expect big things from Pereyra in 2020, regardless of who ends up as head coach. The Uruguayan midfielder will likely shift from Designated Player to TAM-level player and if all goes according to plan he’ll be match fit when the season starts after going through preseason with the Lions. He’s shown glimpses of what he can do and provided three assists in limited playing time. His service got Dom Dwyer going (finally) as the season’s final games wound down and if he can play 25 or 30 games in 2020, there’s no reason to think he won’t set a new club record for assists.