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Orlando City Signs Argentine International Left Back Emmanuel Mas

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The Lions shored up a spot that’s been thinned by injuries this season to address a key need.

Boca Juniors v Claypole - Copa Argentina 2021 Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Although the club has made no formal announcement yet, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting tonight that Orlando City SC has signed Argentine left back Emmanuel Mas, who last played with Buenos Aires giants Boca Juniors. Mas, who has eight caps with Argentina’s national team, has been training with the Lions and his imminent signing had been reported Monday by Cesar Luis Merlo, pending the results of Mas’ medical.

Despite no official announcement — which is expected Wednesday, per multiple sources — the Sentinel story reads as if the deal is already finished and reports that the contract runs through the remainder of the 2021 MLS season, with an option for an additional year. As is customary, Mas will be eligible to play as soon as his international paperwork has been received by the league.

The signing of Mas addresses one of the team’s biggest current needs. With starting fullbacks Joao Moutinho and Ruan hampered by injuries this season, the Lions have been relying on Kyle Smith — who has played every minute this season — and 18-year-old Homegrown defender Michael Halliday. While the two defenders have done a solid job, there have been some cracks in recent games as the minutes continue to mount.

Mas, 32, has been out of contract since July 1, after spending two-and-a-half seasons with Boca Juniors, where he scored three goals in 43 appearances from 2018-2021. Prior to returning to his home country on a €2.3 million transfer, Mas played the 2017-2018 season with Trabzonspor in Turkey, netting one goal in 34 matches. He was originally signed by Trabzonspor for €1.5 million in January of 2017. Before heading to Turkey, Mas played with Buenos Aires-based club San Lorenzo from 2013-2016. He scored six goals in 93 appearances with the Azulgrana, helping the club win the 2014 Copa Libertadores and qualify for the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup.

The San Juan, Argentina native began his professional career with hometown club San Martin de San Juan, making 103 appearances and netting four goals from 2008-2013.

Tata Martino gave Mas his first senior call-up for Argentina in 2015. Mas made his international debut in September of 2015 in a friendly against Bolivia — a 7-0 win in Houston. The most recent of his eight caps came in 2017.

What it Means for Orlando City

The Lions could hardly have a bigger need right now than fullback, unless it’s for an additional center back. Mas has been in Argentina’s national team picture, so he’s obviously a skilled player. He’s got experience and appears to have had all of the requisite tools in recent years playing at one of Argentina’s huge clubs. If he can come in and provide professionalism and quality play, Orlando City will have found yet another good signing under Luiz Muzzi. Mas being out of contract would make this a shrewd move if it works out.

The one-year deal means the club is risking little and the option year means if things go well, Orlando City can get another season from the veteran fullback. So, from the business side of things, this appears to be a good signing.

Smith, a backup on both sides of the back line, has played every minute this season and Halliday was meant to be a depth player this year. Instead, both players have been logging tons of minutes while Oscar Pareja waits for Ruan and Moutinho to be match fit. Moutinho has had a number of nagging injuries over the years, despite being just 23. He had hip surgery last fall, missing the final chunk of the regular season and Orlando’s playoff matches. This year, he was slow returning to the lineup and has been limited to six appearances out of Orlando’s 12 matches (three starts) and 302 minutes. Ruan has appeared in four matches (all starts) for a total of 310 minutes.

A look at his Boca Juniors highlights indicates Mas has good vision and can thread a pass. He also appears willing to get forward and get into the penalty area. On the other hand, there are quite a few clips of him leaving his feet out on the flanks, which is fine if he gets his challenges right and if he avoids doing it in his own box, but he’ll need to be mindful of adjusting to the new league and how fouls are called in MLS.

Here’s a look at what he can do: