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2020 Orlando City Season in Review: Joao Moutinho

An injury cut short an outstanding season for the Lions’ starting left back.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Inter Miami CF Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City acquired left back Joao Moutinho in exchange for Mohamed El-Munir back on Dec. 11, 2018. One of the knocks on Moutinho at the time was an inability to stay healthy and that has continued to be a concern during his time in Orlando. However, when on the pitch, the 22-year-old has developed into one of the top left backs in all of Major League Soccer.

After a stellar MLS is Back Tournament and starts in Orlando City’s first eight league games this season, Moutinho sustained what was thought to be a groin injury at the time and ended up having hip surgery after the 2020 season following unsuccessful rehab to try to get back on the pitch prior to the end of the year.

Here’s how Moutinho’s 2020 season wrapped up:

Statistical Breakdown

As mentioned above, Moutinho made eight regular-season appearances (all starts) for Orlando City in 2020, playing a total of 685 minutes. He attempted seven shots, putting one on target. He created six scoring chances and passed at an 80% rate on the season with 13 dribbles. Careful with the ball, he was dispossessed only three times in the regular season. Defensively, Moutinho registered 12 tackles, 10 interceptions, 18 clearances, two blocked shots, and 15 aerials won. Discipline-wise, the Portuguese fullback committed nine fouls, sustained five himself, and was shown four yellow cards in 2020. For his outstanding play, Moutinho was named to the MLS Team of the Week for the combined Weeks 7 and 8 squad.

He started all four of Orlando’s MLS is Back knockout stage matches, playing 360 minutes. He scored the dramatic, late equalizer against LAFC to send that match into a penalty shootout, but did not register an assist in the tournament after the group stage. Moutinho attempted two shots, with one on goal, across the four matches, passing at an 85.8% rate and creating three scoring chances, including two in the final against Portland. He also committed six fouls, sustained two, and earned himself two yellow cards. His performance earned him a spot on the tournament’s Best XI squad.

Best Game

There were three standout performances from Moutinho in 2020 — the opening day 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake, the MLS is Back knockout stage match against LAFC that went to a shootout, and the 3-1 win over Nashville SC at Exploria Stadium. Any of them would be a worthy selection, but, given the stakes, I’ll say the LAFC match.

Moutinho had a Man of the Match performance with a rating of 7.5 from our Dave Rohe. As Dave wrote:

The young defender made the most out of his appearance against his former club. Moutinho was integral on both ends of the pitch. While he did commit two fouls, neither resulted in a goal for the opposition. He had three tackles, two clearances, and two blocked shots on defense. João attempted 43 passes and had a 75.6% passing rate. Most importantly, he scored the header to draw Orlando City even in the 90th minute off Nani’s corner kick. He also put in his shot during the penalty kicks to help the Lions advance past his former club.

Our readers selected Nani as the Man of the Match in the game, evidently being more forgiving of his penalty miss in normal time than fans were of his miss against New England a few months later. But for me, Moutinho was a worthy selection by Dave. When the tournament was on the line, Moutinho remembered the team’s strategy and executed on a key set piece to score his first goal with Orlando City.

He also showed great composure in the penalty shootout to help Orlando City eliminate his former club.

2020 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave a composite grade of 7 to Moutinho for the 2020 season. This is up from his 2019 rating of 6 and just above his individual match rating average of 6.67 (in which I felt some of my colleagues were a little tough on him at times, but whatever). He showed a great deal of improvement under Oscar Pareja and the offense never worked as well after his injury forced him out of the lineup. In particular, the left side struggled as the chemistry between the triangle of Moutinho, Nani, and Mauricio Pereyra could not be replicated with either Kyle Smith or Kamal Miller playing left back for Orlando. It can’t be understated what Moutinho’s absence meant to the team’s ability to play through traps and double-teams and his crossing ability was sorely missed. It’s not hyperbolic to say that a healthy Moutinho could have impacted the Supporters’ Shield race and Orlando City’s fortunes in the postseason.

2021 Outlook

The Lions exercised their option on Moutinho’s contract after the 2020 season but his 2021 will already be cut short due to the hip surgery, from which it will take four to six months to recover. If the season starts in March, which Don Garber prefers, he’ll miss a significant chunk of the 2021 campaign. If it’s pushed back to April or May, he might not miss much time at all. Provided Moutinho recovers fully from the surgery and can regain his form, he will once again become one of Orlando City’s most important players next season. He simply adds another dimension to the offense and his tackling ability and anticipation makes the Lions harder to break down. It’s understandable if he (or fans) are becoming frustrated with his inability to stay healthy. However, at just 22, he could still bounce back and have a wildly successful career. Orlando will need a temporary solution to his absence to start the year and someone who can fill in to give him the occasional rest, which should be an off-season priority after Kamal Miller’s departure.

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