Stéfano Pinho’s debut for Orlando City was unforgettable.
After an MVP season with NASL side Miami FC, Pinho was given a shot in MLS. He worked all preseason for a chance to shine in a game, and in Orlando City’s season opener against D.C. United, the striker was the hero. He scored a stoppage time goal to salvage a 1-1 draw for the Lions.
It’s been rough since then.
“I’m working for that, to score more goals, to be more confident,” Pinho said. “I’m working very, very hard every day. I hope to score next game.”
Pinho hasn’t scored a goal in eight appearances (four starts) since that D.C. United match. For most of the season, the left-footed Pinho has been deployed as a winger on the left side, but with striker Dom Dwyer out, he got a chance to start as a striker on Friday against Toronto FC.
Things didn’t work out. Pinho had a rough outing against the Reds and he knew it.
“It was a bad day for me [in Toronto,]” Pinho said. “You have to keep working. Everybody has a bad day, you know? You can’t always be perfect. I’m [working] for a new chance to start. I think I have to improve every day, every training, so I’ll keep doing that.”
Coach Jason Kreis knew Pinho was having a bad day, too.
“At halftime, I talked to him because I knew he was really struggling,” Kreis said. “It was obvious from some of the touches he had, but obvious from his body language, too, that he was really down on himself. My experience tells me you have to rebound … from those situations.
“Every player in the world has bad games. Every single one has bad performances. The best players in the world move on from that extremely quickly. That’s what I told him and that’s why God made soccer with two halves. There was an opportunity for him to do better in the second half, and I actually think he did do better in the second half.”
Orlando City’s attack has been so threatening with Dwyer in the lineup because of Dwyer’s hold-up play. He’s tough to force off the ball, so once the ball is played to him, he can stall while support gets into the final third.
That was something Pinho couldn’t mimic against the Reds. He spent extra time after Tuesday’s training session working on his hold-up play, receiving passes with his back to the goal and fighting to keep his balance.
“I think every player has strengths and weaknesses and every player should show a desire to work on their weaknesses,” Kreis said after Tuesday’s training session. “That’s what Stéfano wanted to work on today.”
Dwyer is day-to-day with a lower body injury and didn’t train with the club on Tuesday. Orlando City returns to action on Saturday against the Chicago Fire.
“The other thing is, we don’t need Stéfano to be Dom. We need Stéfano to be Stéfano. He doesn’t have to do all the same things that Dom does. He can do some things differently and perhaps a little bit better,” Kreis siad.
Pinho said he spoke with friends and family after the Toronto FC match and they all provided encouragement.
“I was a little bit sad,” Pinho said. “For me, it’s in the past now. I have to keep improving myself. I am a good player.”
Dwyer trained inside Tuesday. Kreis said he’s hopeful the star striker will be ready for this weekend.
Centerback Lamine Sané trained inside after picking up a “little bit of a knock” during Monday’s training session, Kreis said. He added the club believes Sané will be fit and ready for this weekend.