SANFORD, Fla. — More than anything, Orlando City coach James O’Connor hopes his newest designated player will bring a new element to his team’s attack — unpredictability.
The coach said midfielder Mauricio Pereyra brings an extra edge — he’s creative off the ball, unafraid to shoot from long distance. Between the recent additions of Pereyra and Robinho, O’Connor is looking to create an attack that is multifaceted, difficult for opposing teams to adjust to on defense.
“I think it’s trying to get something a little different,” O’Connor said. “For an opponent, if you don’t know what the player you’re playing against is going to do, I think it’s very hard to defend against. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for players who can do something a little bit differently and impact the game.
As an attacking midfielder, Pereyra can take chances himself and create for his teammates. He scored 23 goals for his former Russian club, Krasnodar FC, but he also notched 27 assists.
When his contract expired after playing seven seasons in the Russian Premier League, Pereyra sought a higher level of competition in MLS. He said he also was attracted to the league due to the opportunities it afforded his family, especially his two young sons.
Now, Pereyra is eager to take the pitch as soon as he can to help the team’s playoff push.
“I like to play with the ball and I like to create chances in front,” Pereyra said. “I want to adapt as fast as possible, because we have not a lot of games left. I want to be ready as fast as possible to help the team.”
Although Pereyra is eager to take the field with Orlando City, O’Connor emphasized the Lions will need to be careful easing the midfielder into the game-day rotation. Pereyra hasn’t played in a match since the end of May with Krasnodar FC, and that span of inactivity could extend his integration progress as he returns to full speed.
Pereyra trained for less than a half-hour with Orlando City on Wednesday, and he looked to take on a heavier workload on Thursday. Although O’Connor hasn’t determined a timetable for Pereyra’s Orlando City debut, his goal is for Pereyra to add a boost to the team’s ability to finish in the final third of the season.
After clawing its way within three points of playoff contention, Orlando City fell into a scoring slump in recent weeks, stumbling into the No. 9 slot and seven points below the playoff cut line. The team didn’t struggle to create scoring opportunities during that span; it simply struggled to finish them.
The team took 32 shots during the past two games, but the Lions only scored one goal. As Orlando City chases its first playoff berth, the ability to finish scoring opportunities will become vital. O’Connor said his team’s newest additions will offer a jolt to the attack.
“We need players who can impact the game, whether to score goals or create goals,” O’Connor said. “I think that’s something we feel like we’ve needed. You look at the volume of chances we’ve had, we have to make sure when we have those chances, we’re clinical. There’s a great determination with the guys to achieve something, and I think that’s the greatest thing we’ve have driving us now.”