There will always be unknown or mostly unknown quantities on a Major League Soccer roster going into a new season. Whether it’s rookies fresh out of college, Homegrown Players, or guys transferring in from foreign leagues that don’t have a lot of coverage, there are always a couple guys who are a bit of a mystery.
Ahead of the 2021 MLS season Orlando City has its share of unknowns who fit the aforementioned bill. Rookies like Derek Dodson and Homegrowns like Michael Halliday are perfect examples. Two players who are slightly unique cases for the Lions however are Matheus Aias and Alexander Alvarado.
In theory, we should have a fairly good idea of what both players can bring to the table, seeing as they each joined Orlando City during the 2020 season. Aias arrived on Aug. 21, and Alvarado on Oct. 13, but for varying reasons we have yet to see very much of either player in Orlando purple.
In the case of Alvarado, that reasoning is fairly straightforward. While he was signed in mid-October, he had to go through a mandatory quarantine period before he could join his teammates and begin training with them. By the time he cleared quarantine and got up to speed with the Lions he was only able to make two regular season appearances totaling 25 minutes, with no playoff appearances.
Aias’ situation is rather more complicated though. As mentioned previously, Aias signed for Orlando in late August, but didn’t make his debut for the team until over two months later on Oct. 24 as a substitute against Inter Miami. It took forever and a day for the Brazilian’s international paperwork to come through, with it then taking additional time for him to be medically cleared. For reasons that were unclear, the club announced on Sept. 23 that he needed to go through further evaluation before joining the Lions — with that statement coming a full month after he was signed.
That delay obviously threw a wrench into things and Aias ultimately wasn’t able to see much of the field. In total he made four regular season appearances, playing 18 minutes, although he did score a goal when a free kick deflected off him and in during a 4-1 win over Atlanta United.
The long and short of it all is that we still don’t have a particularly good idea of what to expect from either player. Based on Luiz Muzzi’s track record so far when it comes to signing players there’s no reason to think that they won’t be capable additions, but there isn’t much to go off of on the field to back that up.
In a 1-0 win against Montreal, Alvarado completed all five of his passes, made two interceptions and recorded a tackle; and Aias had the aforementioned deflected goal while also averaging a passing rate of 71.4% and making a lone tackle. Basically, the two players are more or less coming in with a clean slate when it comes to playing in competitive matches for the Lions.
In a way though, that lack of knowledge about the two is kind of exciting. It’s always interesting to watch new players and find out more about them, especially if they end up being successful for the team a la Chris Mueller or Daryl Dike. It will be extremely interesting to see what the duo can bring to the table, especially in a stable of forwards that seems to be pretty deep after the signings of Alexandre Pato and Silvester van der Water. At the least they should be expected to provide depth across the front line while making starts here and there.
As for their ceilings? That’s much harder to nail down, but that’s all part of the fun.