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2021 Orlando City Season in Review: João Moutinho

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The Lions’ starting left back returned from hip surgery, but still missed chunks of the season with injuries.

SOCCER: SEP 04 MLS - Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Orlando City acquired defender Joao Moutinho from Los Angeles Football Club in exchange for Mohamed El-Munir in December of 2018. The Lisbon, Portugal native was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and played 14 matches for LAFC.

Moutinho returned from a season ending injury in 2020 and showed what he can do when healthy. Unfortunately, he wasn’t injury free in 2021 either. He missed the first two matches, a few in the middle of the season, and the final four matches of the season. Let’s take a look at the defender’s third season in Orlando.

Statistical Breakdown

In the regular season, Moutinho played in 20 matches, started 14, subbed off in six of those and logged 1,290 minutes. He didn’t score a goal but assisted on one, taking seven shots with one on target. He was called offside twice. Moutinho passed at an 81.4% rate, completed 35 long passes and 11 crosses, and made 16 key passes.

Defensively, he blocked five shots, two crosses, and nine passes. He also made 18 clearances and 30 interceptions. He won 24 of 36 tackle attempts (44.4%), and 21 of 35 aerial duels (60%). Moutinho committed 12 fouls, suffered 11 fouls, and earned two yellow cards.

In the Leagues Cup match against Santos Laguna, Moutinho had four tackles, won 80% of his duels, committed one foul, and suffered two fouls. He did not appear in Orlando City’s playoff match against Nashville SC.

Best Game

Moutinho’s best match was the Lions’ 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution on Oct. 24. He started the match and played the first 45 minutes, coming off at the half. His limited time makes his performance all the more impressive, as he provided a beautiful cross for Nani to score the first goal of the match.

The assist was Moutinho’s only one on the season. He received a rating of 6.5 from our Marcus Mitchell. As Marcus wrote:

After missing the past two games, Moutinho returned to the starting line-up and did well on both sides of the ball. His assist was a great one as he delivered a cross into the box for Nani to get on the end of in a crowded box. It was the only successful cross of his four attempts, but he certainly made it count. Moutinho was subbed off at halftime, finishing with a whopping 62 touches and 41 passes at an impressive 93% success rate. Defensively, he had a tackle, two interceptions, a block, and a clearance as he hustled to stop the Revs. It was a great showing from Moutinho as he eases himself back into the swing of things.

Our readers chose Nani as Man of the Match, most likely based on his goal that was assisted by Moutinho. I think it was a fair grade given he came off at the half, but was an integral part of the match. It should be noted that New England didn’t score until late in the second half, once Moutinho was already on the bench. This was the type of performance that Óscar Pareja is looking for from the young defender on a consistent basis.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Moutinho a final grade of 7 for 2021, matching the grade he received last season. There was hope that he would bounce back from his hip surgery and put in an even better performance, but injuries and a lack of being able to find and keep his rhythm due to being in and out of the lineup kept him from leveling up. The Portuguese fullback always provided a different dynamic when on the pitch with Nani, picking his spots to go forward and get involved in the attack, and essentially playing left center back on a three-man back line when Ruan was roaming forward.

2022 Outlook

Orlando City exercised Moutinho’s option for 2022, and when he is healthy he is a very good fullback in Pareja’s system. He has the range to get forward, and good enough speed to track back afterwards. With Nani no longer with the Lions, Moutinho will need to develop a working relationship with whoever replaces him. Additionally, Orlando City needs Moutinho to stay healthy the entire season. Normal rest and the occasional match off are one thing. Missing a third of the season’s games due to injury make it difficult to depend on his presence as a starter. He is nearing the end of his contract and will be fighting for a new one either with Orlando City or somewhere else. This is an important year for Moutinho.


Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)