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Orlando City Re-Signs Striker Alexandre Pato

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The talented veteran had virtually his entire 2021 season wiped out by injuries but he’s back on a one-year deal.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City announced today that veteran forward Alexandre Pato has re-signed with the club on a one-year contract. Although the club didn’t release details from the contract, as is club policy, multiple online reports have indicated that Pato’s deal is largely based on incentives.

“Pato’s ability is proven and we know the untapped potential in what he can bring to our team,” Orlando City General Manager and Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s been working hard to return to top form and we’re looking forward to him having an impactful year for the club. We’re excited for him to return and play an important role both on the field and in the locker room this season.”

After signing with the Lions on Feb. 13 of last year, Pato was injured in the season opener and managed just four regular-season appearances in 2021 (one start), logging only 106 minutes played. He did not have a goal contribution, firing three shots (one on target) and passed at a 50% success rate as he struggled to settle into a comfort level with his teammates in so few minutes. Pato was offside once and defensively he recorded one clearance. He did not commit a foul while drawing two from the opposition.

The 32-year-old Brazilian also came off the bench in Orlando City’s playoff match at Nashville, logging 10 minutes and passing at an 83.3% rate, drawing a foul (and a yellow card) on the hosts as Orlando looked for a tying goal late.

Despite not getting on the score sheet, few will forget his incredible free kick attempt off the woodwork in the home finale against Nashville that should have resulted in an Andres Perea game-winning goal deep in stoppage time. Referee Allen Chapman incredibly overturned his initial call of a good goal after reviewing the video that seemed anything but a clear and obvious error when combining the different angles. That was only the briefest glimpse Orlando fans got of the considerable skill that Pato has in his bag of tricks.

Before joining Orlando, Pato played in Brazil with Sao Paulo, where he made 20 appearances since 2019, scoring five goals.

He began his career with Internacional in Brazil, scoring six goals in 10 appearances in 2006-2007. He signed with AC Milan for 24 million Euros in August of 2007 and went on to score 51 goals in 117 appearances from 2007 to 2013, but he was limited by knocks from 2011-2013.

Brazilian side Corinthians signed him in 2013 and Pato played 30 matches for the club, scoring nine goals between 2013 and 2016. He spent 59 matches on loan with Sao Paulo from 2014 to 2015, scoring 19 times. He also went on loan to Chelsea for two games in 2016, notching one goal.

Pato signed with Villarreal in July of 2016 and started the 2016-2017 season with the La Liga side, scoring just twice in 14 appearances, before transferring to Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian in January of 2017. While in China, Pato was exceedingly productive, scoring 30 goals in 47 appearances from 2017 to 2019. He then returned to Sao Paulo in March of 2019, missing about a third of his first season there.

The Pato Branco, Brazil native has represented his country at the U-20, U-23, and senior levels, scoring 10 goals in 27 first-team appearances.

What It Means for Orlando City

Once again, Pato will occupy an international slot, but he won’t require a DP slot.

Pato’s return is significant if he can stay fit enough to get into games. The former Milan, Villarreal, and Chelsea man has been hampered by injuries periodically throughout his career but his talent, when healthy, is unquestioned. The Lions lost a lot of offense this off-season when Nani’s contract option was declined and both Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller left for European clubs.

Pato was a seemingly excellent insurance addition last off-season for Dike and for relatively low financial risk. That will again be the case in 2022, except there is no Dike, so signing a reliable — and durable — starter at center forward should still be a top priority for the club. Orlando’s attack was noticeably more dangerous once Dike returned from England in 2021 and that’s the kind of player the Lions will need at the top of Oscar Pareja’s formation. Pato can be that guy, but it would be unwise to put all of the (duck) eggs in that particular basket given the Brazilian’s recent fitness history.

So, ultimately, Orlando has solidified striker depth for the upcoming season with Pato and Tesho Akindele in the fold as good second and third options and Benji Michel available to fill in if things get stretched. But a legitimate threat — particularly a DP-level one — would still be a welcome addition to the roster. The players Orlando has been linked to would seemingly be options to replace Nani and Mueller rather than Dike, so we’ll have to wait and see how the Lions ultimately resolve the center forward position.