It finally happened. After just under 1200 minutes of MLS action and eight combined goals and assists, Brazilian former wunderkind Alexandre Pato is hurt again.
Pato and injuries are synonymous at this point. His entire footballing career has been derailed by a constant string of knee and lower body injuries. At one point, Pato was the jewel of Brazilian football and AC Milan, looking poised to join the ranks of Kaka and Ronaldinho as unstoppable superstars.
But the injury bug has never gone away. Pato has only played at least 2,000 minutes in three of his 16 professional seasons. In his first MLS season, he showed tons of promise in his first game but a freak knee injury kept him out almost the entire year.
As this season went along, we knew it was only a matter of time till Pato got hurt again. Nobody wanted it to happen, but it's almost inevitable he'd go down at some point. Against the New York Red Bulls, a heavy challenge from Dru Yearwood left Pato in a heap on the ground.
We don't know the severity of the injury, but the early indications aren't promising. Anytime a player, especially one with Pato's track record, has to be stretchered off, you have to fear for the worst. We'll see how this develops, but it seems almost certain that Pato will miss most of, if not all of, this season.
This is an enormous blow to Orlando City's increasingly tenuous playoff hopes. Pato is a key figure in the squad with his rare technical ability and vision. Nobody on the roster brings quite as much class on the ball as Pato. Whether playing on the wing, up top, or as a No. 10, he provides a level of composure and quality non existent elsewhere.
Orlando did well to bring in depth in similar positions this summer, adding a pair of wingers who could potentially fill the minutes lost from Pato, but it'll be nearly impossible to replace Pato's impact. Maybe a new face will put up numbers and make it work, but it'd be a surprise to say the least.