As first reported in the Spanish press earlier this week, 23-year-old forward Matheus Aiás Barrozo Rodrigues from Watford is now a Lion. Orlando City officially announced the signing today for an undisclosed amount. He joins the club on a two-and-a-half year contract with an option for an additional year, pending the receipt of his ITC and P-1 visa.
“We are very excited to add Matheus to our roster,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He is an exciting young player that we have been looking at for some time that we think will make an immediate impact amongst our group. As a club we continue to work to add difference makers to our team and we think Matheus will fit that mold in the near future and beyond.”
Matheus was believed to have joined on a free transfer after securing his exit from Watford. Orlando City indicated there was an undisclosed fee. The Brazilian didn’t actually play for Watford, as he has been on loan to Club Deportivo Mirandés — located in Castile and León, Spain —since 2018.
The São Paulo native helped Mirandés win promotion from the Spanish third division to the second division following the 2018-2019 season, in which he scored 11 goals in 39 league games (28 starts). Last season, Matheus added six goals in 27 league appearances (seven starts) after jumping up to the second division (note: there are disagreeing stats on games played in multiple online resources, so I’m using Soccerway). However, he was a Copa del Rey hero for Mirandés, scoring six goals in seven games in last year’s competition against teams such as Sevilla and Villareal, finishing a goal out of the tournament’s golden boot. Mirandés was finally bested by Real Sociedad in the semifinals, although Matheus scored in the first leg. During the impressive run by Mirandés, Matheus scored goals against Coruxo, Celtic Vigo, Sevilla (twice), Villareal, and Real Sociedad.
Matheus came up through the youth systems at Ponte Preta in Brazil and Granada in Spain. Now he joins an Orlando City team that will be without the services of Dom Dwyer for the remainder of 2020, leaving Tesho Akindele as the club’s only striker with extended experience.
What It Means for Orlando City
Matheus is a good player to take a chance on. Orlando City under Luiz Muzzi’s watch has done a good job of identifying talent and if the Lions believe this young Brazilian has enough upside to be worth the chance, I’m down with it.
Orlando City is thin at striker. There are bodies in the position but very little experience without Dwyer. Matheus at least provides some high-stakes cup experience against top competition, even if two goals in 16 second-division appearances last season is a bit underwhelming. There may have been underlying reasons for his poor production on an 11th-place team in the league last season but he certainly came through in Copa del Rey.
He will require an international slot and likely will have to go through some kind of quarantine process before joining the Lions for training, so don’t expect him to be available right away for what looks to be a grueling stretch of five games in 15 days.
The right approach is probably not to expect a ton, especially right away, but then be pleasantly surprised if he’s able to contribute. It’s likely not a high-cost signing and therefore it’s a low-risk move with potentially a good reward.