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Orlando City striker Stéfano Pinho excited to kick off first season with Lions

Stéfano Pinho is already imagining what it’ll be like to score a goal at Orlando City Stadium with thousands of purple-clad supporters cheering for him.

The 2017 NASL Golden Ball and Golden Boot award winner knows how to find the back of the net. He especially knows how to do so in Orlando City Stadium. His hat trick for NASL side Miami FC in the Lions’ home knocked Orlando City out of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the fourth round of the tournament.

The 27-year-old striker knows how to score. He just wants to know what it’ll be like with Orlando City’s fans behind him.

“Every day, I put in my mind the fans, the supporters, the stands full, the stadium full,” he said. “I [imagine] when I score and the crowd gets crazy. I think it’ll be amazing for me to see the crowd and the fans.”

Pinho had 17 goals and four assist for Miami FC last season. The players who tied for second had 12 apiece.   

Pinho said he’s tried to gain more confidence during Orlando City’s preseason. During four preseason contests against MLS competition, he scored one goal. His scoring breakthrough was in the club’s third training scrimmage against MLS competition – the fourth preseason scrimmage for the team overall.

Obviously, he wanted more. He said he’s been working hard throughout the preseason to ensure he’ll get minutes on March 3 during the team’s season opener against D.C. United.

“I did well in the preseason,” he said. “I worked hard to show that I can play in the first match. I wanted to score more goals in the preseason to be more confident, but I think the guys did well. I did well, we’re ready for the game.”

Pinho will likely get a chance to shine on Saturday in Orlando City Stadium. Striker Dom Dwyer is out with a quad strain, and in Orlando City’s final preseason game, Pinho played up top with attacker Justin Meram.

“Every day, you have to show you can play,” Pinho said. “I mean, I’m sad for Dom … but like I said, I trained to have a chance. I have to show. If they pick me to play, I have to show that I can play more games and help Orlando.”

His dedication has been noticed by coach Jason Kreis, who praised the Brazilian’s willingness to run.

That’s been a compliment of choice for Kreis during the preseason.

“That’s such an important characteristic for the way we want to play, that our forwards, attacking-minded midfielders are willing and able to run ahead of the ball,” Kreis said after the team’s scrimmage against Real Salt Lake. “It gives players options to play. It makes it very difficult for defenders. It just opens up the field for us to play the way we want to.

“Another guy that has done an amazing job with his work rate and with his willingness and with his running, but has been unfortunate not to score a couple of goals, really.”

This is Pinho’s fourth year in the United States.

“I’m almost American,” he said with a laugh. “I like it here.”

He said he’s looking to mix the style of soccer in his native Brazil with what MLS has to offer.

“In Brazil, it’s more possession,” he said. “I think it’s more … I think it’s [easier]. Here, it’s more strong men. More power and faster, too.”

“For me, it’s a challenge here because of the new style in MLS. I showed last year I can score against Orlando and against Atlanta. I think if I put my mind to the same thing I was doing before, I will be fine.”

Player updates

Richie Laryea (Grade 1 adductor strain) was training with the team on Tuesday. He put in some extra work after the majority of players had left.

Dwyer (quad strain) trained inside. Kreis on Saturday said Dwyer will miss the season opener.

Midfielder Josué Colmán (quad contusion) did not train with the team, but was still running outside. Midfielder Uri Rosell also trained inside.

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