Orlando City is off to a great start in its 2021 Major League Soccer season. Orlando is one of three teams still undefeated, joined by the Seattle Sounders and Nashville SC. Along with the Sounders, the Lions lead the league with only two goals conceded so far this season. Orlando currently sits second in the Eastern Conference behind the New England Revolution, who have played one more game than the Lions this year. We shouldn’t look past how positive things have been to start this season. However, things aren’t perfect, especially offensively.
After finishing fifth in goals in the 2020 regular season, Orlando has struggled to consistently create scoring opportunities through five games in 2021, or convert the ones that are generated. Nani has been excellent, leading the team with three goals, 15 shots (six of which were on target), and nine key passes. But Orlando is struggling to find production from its supporting cast.
However, more goals could be right around the corner. While Orlando only has six goals this season, there are signs suggesting scoring could be on the rise in the near future. Mauricio Pereyra has only played in three of Orlando’s five games this season and is reaching his 2020 form. With just 210 minutes played this year, Pereyra already has a goal, an assist, and seven key passes to his name. As he spends more time on the field, he will continue to be one of the best chance creators in the league.
Orlando’s other big star from 2020, Chris Mueller, hasn’t scored a goal yet and has struggled to make a significant impact at times. Mueller hasn’t suddenly become a bad player at the start of 2021, but he has to be more efficient. While he leads the Lions with two assists, none of his six shots have been on target and he’s only completed four of his 10 dribble attempts. He’s proven he can be a more productive scoring threat, but he has to play more efficiently to get there. As he works his way into the season, Mueller should be among the league’s most productive wingers once again.
I hate to keep beating this dead horse, but scoring comes down to the strikers. I love Tesho Akindele and think he brings so much to this team with his offensive and defensive work rate, but he just isn’t a high-level scorer. Only two of his seven shots have been on target, although one of those was a goal. Even with all of the things Akindele does well, he doesn’t provide enough of a threat to score. Can he do more? With only one season of double-digit goals in his MLS career, it’s unlikely he’ll be a consistent scorer.
The good news for Orlando is that help is on the horizon. Alexandre Pato could potentially make his return to the lineup after the June international break, Daryl Dike could be back from Barnsley FC as soon as next week, and Matheus Aias is working his way back from fitness issues in the preseason. Last year at the MLS is Back Tournament, the Lions also showed they can do well without a dangerous striker so long as the wingers produce at a high level.
It might be a slow start for the Lions offensively in 2021, but with Pereyra coming into form, Nani playing well, and the returns of Pato and Dike looming, the goals will start to come. The Lions will also be helped immensely if Mueller can increase his production, and given his success over his 100-game career as a Lion, I expect he will. Orlando is a great team and the offense should reflect that sooner rather than later.
Orlando City Top Scorers in 2020 vs. Their 2021 Stats
|Player||2020 Goals||2021 Goals|
|Player||2020 Goals||2021 Goals|
|Daryl Dike||8||0 (on loan)|