It was a bit of a controversial decision to re-sign attacking midfielder Mauricio Pereyra as a Designated Player before the 2022 season. The 32-year-old Uruguayan has been a really good player for Orlando City since arriving from the Russian Premier League in 2019, but his age and spotty injury record, as well as inconsistent form made him far from a sure decision to re-sign, especially as a DP.
Through the first few games of the 2022 season, the diminutive attacking midfielder struggled to get going, leading to a stagnant Orlando City attack that only briefly showed glimpses of dynamism.
Just as criticism of Pereyra started to filter in, the former Krasnador star finally found his feet and played to his best.
From the international break on, the three games since a 1-1 draw in Portland, Orlando's attack has been more dangerous than ever, and Pereyra's pulling all the strings. The Uruguayan is fifth in MLS in key passes with 19 and seventh in the league for both Expected Assists (2.0) and shot-creating actions (29).
More than any jumps to underlying stats, Pereyra's improved sharpness and vision is opening up games for Orlando City. The last three games are three of Orlando's four best expected goals outputs of the season, including a season-high 2.7 against the Chicago Fire.
Pereyra isn't the sole reason for the jump, but his ability as an orchestrator and visionary passer emboldens stars like Facundo Torres and Alexandre Pato to be more goal dangerous. The high soccer IQ and technical ability in the quartet of Torres, Pato, Pereyra and Ercan Kara might be unmatched in the league, and as they build chemistry, Orlando is becoming formidable in the final third.
This hot run from Pereyra serves as a reminder of the Uruguayan's immense class. But the question with Pereyra has never been about his talent or his creativity; it's his longevity. Just like Pato, it's great to see him play at such a high level, but for Orlando City to seriously compete for silverware, Pereyra needs to maintain his level and his fitness for the course of the season. If he can provide that creativity from central midfield all year long, then Orlando will be one of the scariest teams to face league-wide.
All stats used in this article and others like it come courtesy of FBRef.com.