Nani completed his second season as a Lion in 2020. While his first season was excellent, Nani continued to be one of the better players for Orlando City in year two.
Orlando City signed Nani to a three-year Designated Player contract on a free transfer on Feb. 18, 2019. He previously played for Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. Orlando City is Nani’s fifth club since leaving Manchester United in 2015. Still, he appears to be staying in MLS for the foreseeable future.
Nani made 19 regular-season appearances (16 starts) for Orlando in 2020, missing the first two matches due to a suspension carryover from 2019. He played a total of 1,423 minutes in MLS play. He scored six goals — including his only regular-season penalty attempt — and added five assists, getting 16 of his 52 shots on target. His six goals was third best on Orlando behind Chris Mueller (10) and Daryl Dike (8), while his five assists were also third, behind Mauricio Pereyra (8), and Mueller (7). He created 35 chances while passing at a 75.2% rate. Defensively, he chipped in 13 tackles, 10 interceptions, nine clearances, and one block. He committed 14 fouls and sustained 27 from the opposition. He earned three yellow cards and one red card but that was later rescinded by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.
Nani started all four of the knockout games in the MLS is Back tournament, playing all 360 minutes. He scored two goals — both against Minnesota United in the semifinals — slotted home his penalty in the shootout against LAFC, and added two assists. He attempted 12 shots and got six on goal, and created five scoring chances, passing at a 79.1% rate. He managed four interceptions, eight clearances, and two blocks, but didn’t register a tackle. He committed two fouls, drew six fouls, and picked up a yellow card in the final against Portland.
Nani started both of the playoff matches and never was subbed out, playing the full 120 minutes against New York City FC and 210 in total. He scored one goal on eight shots, getting three on target. He attempted two penalty kicks and converted one. He also missed his penalty kick in the shootout against NYCFC. He committed four fouls and drew just three from the opposition, and was booked against New England.
Nani’s best game was a tough choice. He scored a brace in a great MLS is Back semifinal performance against Minnesota United, but we’ll go with Orlando’s 4-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Sep. 19. It was a pretty crazy game overall. For starters, the weather was awful, and it was downpouring throughout. The Fire had two goals that were overturned by video review and won two penalty kicks. Pedro Gallese saved the penalty kick in the first half, and Robert Beric converted from the spot in the second half.
Nani finished the match with six shots — the highest total in that match and the second most shots Nani attempted in the regular season this year. The Portuguese winger came close to scoring a few times but found his goal in the 24th minute. Pereyra played the ball to Mueller on the wing. Mueller sent in a perfect cross to the captain, who headed it past a diving Bobby Shuttleworth.
Junior Urso scored in the 78th minute. The goal started with a free kick that Nani won. The 34-year-old then sent in a perfect ball into the area. The ball bounced around for a while before Urso eventually sent it into the back corner. There was no assist on the play for Nani, as seemingly everyone on the pitch got a touch on it, but he created the goal by drawing the set piece and sending in a good delivery.
Nani did bag an assist later in the match. The game was all but over with the Lions up 3-1 in stoppage time. Still, Orlando pressed forward and took its chances. With the ball at his feet in the corner, and the Fire taking their time closing down, Nani found Benji Michel wide open just inside the box, playing it to the Homegrown’s feet, and Michel did the rest.
Nani led Orlando with 69 touches. He had just a 72.2% passing rate, but this low number is more because his teammates were not making the runs. Nani’s vision was excellent, and he helped control the match. He drew two fouls, made three dribbles, and made an incredible move in the 42nd minute to chip the ball past his defender and in on goal, but his shot skipped wide.
2020 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Nani a composite grade of 7 for his 2020 season. This is down from a 7.5 in 2019. Nani’s dip could be for a few reasons. First, his production faded a bit down the stretch. In addition, last season the team relied much on input from Nani, while not one player was crucial to the team’s success in 2020. Oscar Pareja often made big changes from game-to-game, and the team was still able to be competitive. Nani’s goals per game and assists per game were also down from a season ago.
Still, the captain was one of the better players for Orlando City this season and a 7 is still a good score across an entire MLS campaign. While he struggled from the spot in critical moments at the end of the year, his leadership was key to the Lions. He also was able to provide some Nani magic when the team needed it.
Nani is still under contract for next season. He signed a three-year deal prior to the 2019 season, so he still is a Lion for at least one more season. At 34 years old, his playing days are numbered. However, Nani will be back in purple next season as the Lions continue to push to win a trophy. If 2021 is, in fact, his last year either as a professional or with Orlando, Nani will want to go out on top. Look for Nani to push his teammates even further next season in the quest to bring silverware to central Florida.
Previous Seasons in Review (Date Posted)
- Jordan Bender (12/2)
- Alex De John (12/3)
- Kamal Miller (12/4)
- Matheus Aias (12/5)
- Alexander Alvarado (12/6)
- Antonio Carlos (12/7)
- Joey DeZart (12/8)
- Dom Dwyer (12/9)
- Kyle Smith (12/10)
- Tesho Akindele (12/11)
- Santiago Patino (12/12)
- Robinho (12/13)
- Rodrigo Schlegel (12/14)
- Sebas Mendez (12/14)
- Brian Rowe (12/15)
- Benji Michel (12/15)
- Robin Jansson (12/16)
- Uri Rosell (12/17)
- Andres Perea (12/18)
- Pedro Gallese (12/18)
- David Loera (12/19)
- Joao Moutinho (12/20)
- Chris Mueller (12/21)
- Ruan (12/21)
- Daryl Dike (12/22)
- Junior Urso (12/24)