Joao Moutinho Back to His Best

Apr 9, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando City defender Joao Moutinho (4) controls the ball as
Apr 9, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando City defender Joao Moutinho (4) controls the ball as / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City left back Joao Moutinho is one of the more interesting and volatile players in the club's recent history. Since arriving in a trade from LAFC in 2019, the former first overall SuperDraft pick has been as inconsistent a performer as anyone in the league.

Moutinho, at his best, was the best left back in all of Major League Soccer. In the 2020 MLS is Back tournament, the Portuguese defender was a dynamo with the ball and strong defensively, earning a spot in the tournament's best XI. Even before that tournament, Moutinho flashed moments of quality in a fledgling 2019 Orlando City team, showing glimpses of an elite MLS player.

For all the flashes and excellence, though, injuries and inconsistency always find Moutinho. Soon after MLS is Back, he suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out much of the season. He's dealt with multiple hamstring and groin injuries over the last two years, to the point where he played less than 2,000 minutes across 2020 and 2021.

Even when the former Akron Zip was healthy in that time, he struggled for form. He lacked any dynamism going forward and was a massive liability defensively. His fitness definitely affected that form, but even when he was available he wasn't good enough.

Thus far in 2022, the Moutinho of old, the pre-injury Moutinho, is back. He's played and gone the full 90 in all eight league games and played the entire second half against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the US Open Cup. The availability is a welcome development after two years on the training table, but his rejuvenated form is even better.

Moutinho is a special and unique player in Major League Soccer. Few fullbacks in the league have his skillset and even fewer are deployed the way he is. Moutinho plays almost as an underlapping fullback, driving into midfield and combining with the midfielders to create overloads.

He doesn't get wide and whip in crosses, instead he's another midfielder in possession down the left flank, providing an extra bit of skill and vision in ball progression. He plays almost like another Joao, Manchester City's Joao Cancelo, who often plays in that underlapping, extra midfield role for Pep Guardiola's team.

Obviously Moutinho isn't anywhere near the same level as his compatriot, but he definitely is the MLS version of Cancelo and a unique weapon in Orlando City's arsenal. If Moutinho can stay healthy the majority of this season, he solves any and all problems at left back for the Lions and allows the team to play the attractive possession soccer that's alluded them for much of the last two seasons.