Since coming to Orlando City and throughout his career, Nani has been great in front of goal. The Portuguese veteran leads by example through taking initiative on the attacking front for the Lions and his experience at the top level has helped the club tremendously. The 34-year-old has long been known for his superb finishing ability and that attribute has followed him to central Florida.
The former Manchester United man has now twice out-performed his expected goals (xG) metric with Orlando, doing so in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Nani has long been known for that feat, but before we get into the topic at hand, it is worth noting that questions about whether or not it is sustainable going into the future are more than justified. That said, for Oscar Pareja’s men, Nani overperforming in terms of goals scored compared to xG is pivotal for succeeding in the forthcoming campaign.
As mentioned, Nani is a player known for overperforming in the goal-scoring department of his underlying metrics. He takes an abundance of audacious efforts, which often leads to scoring incredible goals. Shots through traffic from a long way out tend to have a lower xG, and that is the area where Nani loves to have a pop from as shown below.
The efficacy of such boldness has helped Orlando going forward since 2019. In spite of Orlando’s difficult season during his first year, Nani was a bright spot in the darkness. In his introductory campaign wearing purple, he scored 12 league goals despite his xG only being 7.9 (0.31 xG per 90). In 2020, he outshone his xG once again in MLS, scoring six goals and managing a season total of only 4.8 xG (0.3 xG per 90 minutes). In the MLS is Back Tournament knockout stage, he outscored his goal-scoring metric again with two goals from an xG of 1.41.
It is worth noting that sometimes underlying metrics can fail to tell certain parts of the story. But in Nani’s case, his perpetual outperformance of xG is indicative of his top-class finishing ability.
That potency must be present in the 2021 season for Nani and it could be crucial for Orlando’s success. While the likes of Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller may be expected to chip in with a good tally of goals in the coming season, they don’t have Nani’s same audacity from downtown.
A combination of their preference, generally closer to goal, and Nani’s effective daringness from range can be extremely helpful for the Lions to have another solid season.
Given his age, little ill will can be said of Nani in my opinion, although the sustainability of such effectiveness is worth questioning. It would be more than ideal if it could remain the same though.
It could be somewhat dangerous relying on a 34-year-old to be the main threat going forward so a a balance must be struck. The responsibility of scoring can and should be shared. The likes of Nani, the aforementioned American pair, Junior Urso and Mauricio Pereyra should all be expected to contribute some goals and that could be a daunting attacking force for opponents to manage, especially when Nani’s unpredictability lies within the well-balanced furious five.
The model professional will provide something the others in the attack do not and, because of that, outperforming his xG once more is essential. His performance could help see the Lions make a deep run in the playoffs, so let’s hope Nani can outperform his xG once again.