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2021 Orlando City Season in Review: Mauricio Pereyra

The Uruguayan midfield maestro completed his third season in Orlando.

SOCCER: JUL 22 MLS - Philadelphia Union at Orlando City SC Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Uruguayan midfielder Mauricio Pereyra just completed his third season in Major League Soccer, and was again an influential presence for Orlando City. The Lions signed Pereyra as a Designated Player on July 30, 2019 on a free transfer from Russian top flight side FC Krasnodar, but nagging injuries limited his playing time for the remainder of the 2019 season.

His full abilities were on display in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season as he looked every bit the part of a DP attacking midfield, pulling the strings and connecting with the team’s forwards.

Let’s look back on his 2021 MLS campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

The Montevideo, Uruguay native only missed five regular-season matches in 2021 (the first two due to a suspension dating back to a red card incident in the 2020 playoffs), finishing the year with 29 appearances (26) starts, and playing 2,166 minutes. These were all easily new highs in his MLS career. He scored one goal and reached double figures in assists for the first time as a Lion, recording 10 to lead the club. Seven of his 10 were primary assists and three were of the secondary (or “hockey”) variety. His 25 shot attempts and nine shots on target were also new career highs as a Lion. He attempted one penalty but was unsuccessful, seeing his shot saved in a 2-1 home loss to the New York Red Bulls on July 3.

His passing percentage of 83% was just half a percentage point lower than last season, but he contributed 53 key passes and he averaged 1.1 successful crosses and 2.6 successful long balls per game.

Defensively, Pereyra won 28 of 51 tackle attempts for a 54.9% success rate. He finished with 16 interceptions, five clearances, and two blocked shots. Pereyra was shown seven yellow cards but was not sent off in 2021.

The Uruguayan started and played 90 minutes in Orlando City’s playoff match at Nashville, assisting on Daryl Dike’s goal with an excellent corner kick delivery in the 14th minute. He passed at just a 74% rate in the match and committed three fouls while only drawing one, and he was shown a yellow card.

Pereyra started and played 87 minutes in the Lions’ Leagues Cup match against Santos Laguna. He did not score or assist on a goal, attempting two shots (neither on target). He committed two fouls in the match.

Best Game

There were a number of strong games in contention for this section but I’ll go with his two-assist performance on July 22 in a 2-1 home win over the Philadelphia Union. Pereyra not only helped the Lions score both goals in the match, but he was also accurate on 90.24% of his 41 passes — his third-best passing percentage of the season. He attempted one shot but did not get it on target. He had an accurate through ball and an accurate long ball.

Pereyra’s first assist was this ridiculous seeing-eye pass through the defense to Benji Michel, who nearly stumbled over the ball, but the Homegrown winger had enough time to recover and calmly slot home to give the Lions a 1-0 lead just 10 minutes in. I mean, look at this filth.

The midfield maestro nearly doubled the lead three minutes after his assist, firing just inches wide of the left spot from around the penalty spot.

Pereyra helped the Lions double the lead early in the second half with a secondary assist. He sprayed a pass out to the right to Nani, giving the captain plenty of space to pick out a perfect cross for Andres Perea, who nodded inside the far post to make it 2-0 in the 59th minute.

Although Philadelphia pulled a goal back, it was a great 73-minute performance for Pereyra. He finished with 50 touches, which was topped by only four other Lions, but three of them went the full 90 and Nani came off about 10 minutes after Pereyra did.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Pereyra a 7.5 composite rating on the 1-10 scale, which equals his rating from 2020. He did not play enough minutes to earn a rating for his 2019 campaign. Pereyra had some hot and cold streaks in 2021 and the latter were often related to playing through nagging injuries. There were times he tried to force some passes through some of the league’s stingier defenses, such as Nashville’s, and he still turns down too many opportunities to shoot, but he is the unselfish leader of the Orlando City midfield and the team was noticeably better in that part of the field when he was out there. His 2021 stats compare well with those from 2020, but his assist numbers should have been higher. However, some of his better passes fell victim to poor touches or a lack of clinical finishing on the other end by some of his teammates.

2022 Outlook

Although Pereyra was out of contract after the 2021 season, the Lions re-signed him to a one-year deal for 2022 just last week. It is likely that he’ll remain a Designated Player after earning $1.8 million in 2021, but the terms of his new deal weren’t announced and the club doesn’t have to declare its DP slots until rosters are due to the league prior to the season. Pereyra will be the string puller in the attacking midfield again in 2022 and will have to do it without Nani, so we’ll have to wait to see who the club adds to the attack. He’ll be expected to put up another double-digit assist season, but at the moment it’s unclear who will score the goals on the end of those amazing Pereyra passes.

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