Orlando City star striker Nani returned to training with the rest of his team on Monday following a bout of food poisoning over the weekend. The illness kept the forward on the sidelines for the team’s 1-0 victory over Columbus on Saturday.
Before the match, Nani had played in nine straight games, notching three goals and three assists over that stretch. He leads the team on the offensive side, netting eight goals so far this season and adding seven assists.
Coach James O’Connor has joked that the forward often has to be convinced to come off the field due to his strong desire to play; Saturday’s game, however, gave the player time to rest while also giving the team an opportunity to adapt without their star on the field. Rookie Benji Michel earned the start and scored the team’s lone goal of the game in Nani’s place, providing a boost of confidence in the team’s ability to adapt and rotate its roster.
“He brings a lot of class and he creates a lot of chances,” forward Tesho Akindele said. “He’s a great player, but I think that everybody really tried to raise their level a little bit [without him] so I think it’s good that we got the result without him to show that we’re a complete team, and we’re not reliant on one superstar.”
After coming down with his stomach illness on Friday and taking the weekend rest, Nani was back out on the training field on Monday morning. He is expected to be fully available for Thursday’s game in Portland.