Sorry for my Marvel reference heavy headline (no, I'm not). I was pondering various WandaVision finale theories earlier. And then I began to think about Sylvester Van Der Water. No, not in that way. Get you head out of the gutter. And then I got to wondering how the former Heracles man might alter Orlando City's reality. Or its future reality. Triggering the Deutsch Proposition with a Dutchman. Yes, I know the difference between Germany and The Netherlands. And, yes, I know Orlando City's offence has bugger all to do with time travel. Or the Avengers.
Anyway, I want to speak to the options another offensive addition (Pato) brings to this club, before I address any potential for trouble, in terms of squad balance, a certain Dutchman might bring to this squad.
All winter, the general consensus has been that Orlando City are 3 players short of being genuine MLS Cup contenders. If you asked anyone of a purple persuasion, they'd tell you a left-back, a number 10 and a winger should be top of Oscar Pareja's list. At least before Daryl Dike's shock loan move to Barnsley of the English Championship. A few short weeks later, the signing of Pato was confirmed. An acquisition which, I believe, may well have addressed that, and a number of other issues along the Orlando City forward line.
I think we can all agree that Orlando City were an entirely different proposition sans Mauricio Pereyra last season. The Uruguayan playmaker is an integral piece of the puzzle for Oscar Pareja's side. His close control and ability to break defensive lines with his intelligent passing was often the difference maker for the Lions. And when he was missing, Orlando struggled. Pereyra is so important to the way this team is set up. As such, any potential absences for the talismanic former Krasnodar man could be ruinous. Hence the general feeling of concern amongst supporters around our perceived lack of depth at the 10. But fear not.
We may already have the solution. And that's before we even consider the seemingly inevitable signing of Sylvester Van Der Water. Which in itself could create potential problems with regards to team harmony. But more on that later. Let's talk about that no. 10 solution. No, not the issue of the baffoon currently presiding over Downing Street here in the UK. That other thing. The primary solution is this: Nani. What!? That's crazy? No, it's not. The mercurial Portuguese isn't getting any younger. El Capitao is the perfect solution. His ability to break lines, find space and create, combined with Pato's technical ability could be useful during any potential Pereyra absences. Such as the opening two game weeks? Yep, that's still a thing. Nani isn't the only potential solution either. Put a pin in that though. Let's talk more about this Nani option first...
Mauricio Pereyra is suspended for the opening two rounds of the season, following his red card against the New England Revolution in November. Alexandre Pato will have had a full pre-season with the team. His technical ability and movement, make him an ideal candidate to start on the left of the three whilst Nani moves in-field. The Brazilian would be able to switch positions at will with Nani, and even Chris Mueller. Such tactics keep the opposition guessing, and would allow the full-backs space to run from deep. There's also an advantage to be had during defensive and offensive transition moments. Teams will be worried about over committing in midfield and allowing Nani and Pato too much space. At least they should worry. I would.
It's not a long term solution, but it could work.
Figure 1 shows a potential solution to Pereyra's absence, through suspension, at the beginning of the 2021 season.
Now the issue of Sylvester Van Der Water. And any other potential offensive additions that may arrive at Exploria Stadium over the next few weeks. Orlando City are currently in the very fortunate position of having a plethora of attacking talent at their disposal. Particularly after the expected signing of Sylvester Van Der Water (see Tweet from Alex Leitao below). The danger is that any further additions could upset the apple cart, so to speak.
Now, I'm not naïve enough to suggest that Luis Muzzi and Oscar Pareja won't be aware of this danger. Of course they are. They know a heck of a lot more than I do. I just think, giving the depth of attacking talent we now possess, calls for further competition at the 10 should be tempered somewhat. I've very helpfully included a potential depth chart for all forward positions below. Don't say I never do anything for you.
Keep in mind, many of the players included above can play multiple positions. There is a versatility about this forward line, with the homologous nature of the likes of Nani and Pato providing different options all across the front. Nani, we know can occupy multiple positions, as can Pato, Mueller, Urso... I could go on. If we were to add another attacking midfielder, at this stage, it could cause unrest within the squad.
Whilst I understand options are important, there is such a thing as having too many. Mauricio Pereyra is our guy, he's an established favourite of Pareja's. The acquisition of Pato and Van Der Water provide further options on the wing. Freeing up the likes of Nani, Urso to cover at the 10. Even Pato himself, is versatile enough to play at the 10 or as a second striker to Tesho, or Dike when he returns. When. Not if. I refuse to be dissuaded there. Is this just a defence mechanism? Maybe. I've been hurt before. We all have.
My point is, we shouldn't panic about reinforcements in forward areas. We not only have a notable attacking arsenal. We have a god damn garrison. And I couldn't be more excited.
*Line-up graphics courtesy of chosen11.com