Orlando City announced today that Uruguayan midfielder Mauricio Pereyra has signed a new one-year contract to remain a Lion for the 2022 season. The 31-year-old remains on a Designated Player-level salary, but the club has the flexibility to either use a DP slot or pay down his salary with Targeted Allocation Money to avoid using a slot. That decision isn’t due until final rosters are turned in to the league ahead of the 2022 season.
“Mauricio has proven to be a true leader both on and off the field, and we are very excited to have him return for another season here in Orlando,” Orlando City SC Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “In addition to his skill on the field, we know Mauricio will bring our roster together, which will feature some new faces next season. The locker room intangibles are just as important to our club, so it was very a high priority for us to keep someone like him for both his technical quality and personal character.”
Pereyra made 29 regular-season appearances for the Lions this past season (26 starts), scoring one goal and adding 10 assists in his 2,166 minutes on the field. He added an assist in Orlando City’s playoff match against Nashville SC for a total of 11 helpers on the year in all competitions — equaling Nani’s club mark set in 2019. His only goal of the year was a game-winner at D.C. United on May 16 in a 1-0 victory. Pereyra set new personal season highs in shots (24) and shots on target (9), passing at an 83% accuracy in 2021 and both committing and drawing 43 fouls. He was booked six times.
Orlando City originally signed the Uruguayan midfield maestro on July 30, 2019 in the summer transfer window on a free transfer from Russian top flight club FC Krasnodar. In 51 career MLS games, Pereyra has scored three goals and contributed 22 assists in the regular season. His 23 MLS assists (regular season and playoffs) is third in Orlando City history behind Nani’s 26 and Chris Mueller’s 24.
What It Means for Orlando City
Pereyra made a guaranteed $1.8 million in 2021 — about half a million short of Nani’s club-high salary. While we won’t know what he re-signed for until the MLS Players Association releases its midseason salary information, it’s likely he’ll stay at a DP level even if he ended up accepting less money with his new deal. However, depending on that number, the Lions could end up with three free Designated Player slots by splashing some TAM on Pereyra’s deal to buy him down to the max salary number.
The Uruguayan becomes the club’s primary playmaker with Nani’s contract option not being picked up for 2022. He was already one of the two most important connecting pieces on the field and his role could become even more important in 2022, depending on what the Lions do in the off-season on the wings to offset the losses of Nani and Mueller. Some teams have been able to mark Pereyra out of games when Nani wasn’t on the pitch by throwing numbers at him in the midfield. Still, he has been the team’s best player at threading through balls past the defense and into dangerous areas since his arrival. He will continue to be an important player in Orlando’s attack, connecting the ball from the back to the front.
With presumably more roster moves coming (see Muzzi’s quote above), it will be interesting to see if Pereyra retains his DP slot or becomes a TAM player when the final roster announcements are made in early 2022. With Nani moving on, Orlando could have had two to three new DPs when the 2022 season starts (and still might). Another dynamic player in the attacking midfield will help provide the operating space Pereyra needs to pick out passes up the middle and send Ruan down the right flank. Pereyra has a good understanding of both Oscar Pareja’s system and his strikers’ strengths and preferences on where and when to receive the ball. That importance of that continuity can’t be overstated, and while Pereyra isn’t the kind of DP who can carry an MLS team, he can be, and must be, an important part of the team’s success.
With Pereyra in the fold, Orlando City has two players unresolved for 2022. The Lions announced on Dec. 1 that they are negotiating to bring back midfielder Uri Rosell and forward Alexandre Pato.