As we count down to the new year of 2020 — which will be Orlando City’s sixth in MLS, OCB’s second in USL League One, and the Orlando Pride’s fifth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2019, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year.
Entering 2019, it was clear that Orlando City needed to add some scoring prowess and someone who could set up others to score goals. The Lions made a big splash by going out and signing Portuguese international and former Manchester United star Nani on a free transfer on Feb. 18. Everyone in the organization was excited by the addition of the Portugal star.
“This is an exciting day for our organization,” said Orlando City SC EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi. “Nani brings tremendous experience to our roster. He’s a dynamic winger with quality abilities to move and cross the ball, impact games and lead the offensive play.”
Nani became the team’s captain shortly after arriving and he led by example on the field. He made his Orlando City debut off the bench in Orlando’s 2-2 opening day draw against New York City FC on March 2, providing his first MLS assist, and then got his first start as a Lion on the road in a 1-1 draw at Chicago on March 9 — again assisting on a goal, setting up Dom Dwyer.
He really found his groove at the end of March, going on a five-game hot streak, in which he was involved in at least one goal in every game. After notching an assist on March 31 in a 2-1 loss to D.C. United, he scored his first goal as a Lion on April 6 in a 4-3 win over Colorado. In fact, he scored a brace and added an assist to lead the Lions. He scored goals in his next three games.
In all, Nani scored 12 goals and added 10 assists to set a new club record for goals + assists in a season in 30 appearances (26 starts). He was the team’s most reliable offensive player all season long and represented Orlando City in the 2019 MLS All-Star Game, which was held at our own Exploria Stadium.
Although the team struggled down the stretch to win games and fell completely out of the playoff race late, Nani’s efforts helped make some of those losses and draws more bearable. Now that he’s been through the league once, we can only hope to see more magical moments from him like this:
The captain’s performance throughout the season shows that his signing was definitely one of the club’s highlights from 2019.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2019.
Previous Top 10 Moments of 2019
10. OCSC hosts the USMNT in a Concacaf Nations League game.
9. OCB returns in USL League One.
8. The Orlando Pride upset the Red Stars in Chicago.
7. Orlando City B picks up its first USL League One win.
6. Orlando City hires Oscar Pareja as head coach.
4. Orlando City hosts 2019 MLS All-Star Game.