MLS is Back: 'Remarkable' Nani carries Orlando City on his shoulders

After the 3-1 win over Minnesota United sent Orlando City into the final of the MLS is Back Tournament in its backyard, Lions head coach Oscar Pareja tried to spread around the praise among all his players for the club's biggest win in its six MLS seasons, but he kept coming back to one player.

The 33-year-old Portuguese star Nani broke open the weather-delayed game with two goals six minutes apart late in the first half and assisted on Benji Michel's insurance goal in stoppage time.

“It’s great to have players who take that responsibility and put the weight on their shoulders and appear in the games that mean the most for us," said Pareja. "It’s remarkable, but I want to include everybody’s effort. Everybody contributed to this victory and obviously we have some guys who had highlights and tremendous personality in them. They’re doing a great job, we’re happy.”

Few players who have come through MLS have matched Nani's record of success: the winner of the Premier League four times and the 2008 UEFA Champions League among 11 trophies with Manchester United and the Euro 2016 championship with Portugal.

“[Nani] has been in these scenarios before," added Pareja. "The thing that I want you all to know is that he’s training every single day like he is a rookie coming into the league and we all respect that from Luis. In the games that he needs to appear, he is doing it."

Minnesota United had the better of play in the first half, but Nani took over the game with two bits of magic.

First, he took a 65-yard pass from defender Robin Jansson out of the air and with one touch beat Minnesota right back Hassani Dotson and poked the ball past goalkeeper Tyler Miller. On the second goal, Nani was given time to line up a shot from outside the box on the left side and fired a curling ball inside the far post, leaving Miller with no chance.

"It’s contagious, his energy, and we respect his leadership," added Pareja. "We’re all content with his performance of course and the sacrifice that these guys are doing, everybody just for each other. It’s remarkable, indeed.”

7 comments about "MLS is Back: 'Remarkable' Nani carries Orlando City on his shoulders".
  1. frank schoon, August 7, 2020 at 8:55 a.m.

    Guys, it looks like I have a team to watch this season....I like Nani

  2. Ken Garner replied, August 7, 2020 at 9:05 a.m.

    I've really enjoyed watching OCSC play in this tournament, and Nani is obviously class, but the Lions made me a nervous wreck down the stretch last night. Way too many unforced turnovers. Fortunately, they kept working hard to outlast Minnesota. Vamps! Orlando City!

  3. peter grill, August 7, 2020 at 9:07 a.m.

    And he's not even Dutch ...will miracles never cease

  4. Valerie Metzler, August 7, 2020 at 9:55 a.m.


  5. frank schoon, August 7, 2020 at 10:09 a.m.

    Guys,  Ken ,this is the first time I've watched soccer and I have no idea how Orlando plays but I like what I saw on the video.

    First of all I like the diagonal cross that lead to the first goal. THIS is the kind of crosspass perfectly executed for you see so few of them like this,both on the passing and receiving end. If you want to teach your players how a good cross pass should be executed than make a copy of this, let them watch and study the whole play from the initiation to the receiving end.

    The  pass was made in a manner that the defender was placed in a position that he could not see Nani and the ball at the same time. He chose the ball which allowed Nani to get better position on the defender. Next the pass was made in a manner that allowed Nani to run on to it, facing the goal. But the most important aspect was Nani's trap on the run. He allowed the ball to rebound off the bottom of his foot and at the same time directed it towards the goal, in other words he executed two movements in one. THAT IS PERFECT SOCCER. 

    Nani's second goal like his first action, shows his highly efficient utility of movement.( Again note his defender is placed in a position where he has to choose to watch either the ball or the man). He comes at the defender ,makes a slight feint with his chest to his left, throwing off the defender, than a slight feint with his right leg and push the ball just enough and kicks it just as #4 positions in the line of sight of the goalie.

    What is so important to realize is the EFFICIENCY OF MOVEMENT ,the stuff that you don't see from our players which can be taught but isn't. Again it is an old 33year old who can't run with these brainless, foam on the mouth types and DOESN'T need to. Now, picture Pulisic in that second goal situation, he would have tried to blow by the defender, using his acceleration and speed, for that his weapon of choice. Nani doesn't have the acceleration so he has to play it smart, for that is really what is needed. This is what Pulisic has to be taught by someone like a Nani to show him how to cut off the 'fat' so to speak.....

  6. frank schoon, August 7, 2020 at 2:26 p.m.

    This Mendez has a great touch on the ball passing wise as well as this Brazilian kid that sort of has a perm or afro type of haircut. I like that pass he made in the 41min51 sec.into the game around midfield. It was a simple but there is a certain technique you need to apply to the ball. He pops it right over the defender for a short pass. The moment i saw that I realized that wasn't a US player executing it for we just don't have that swing, that touch on the ball to place into our passes.... We have such stilffs for. players. I'm also impressed by the Swedish centerback, his long ball passes...I had no idea who these players were but the way the pass and caress the ball just didn't seem to be American. As I looked on the roster, Orlando is just filled foreign players of latin orientation...

    I'm asking myself , why is it that our American players lack that smoothness, the touch ,the swing, the manner of passing... At leads me to give little credence to the quality of DA programs  teaching/coaching our players . It is so strictly 'meat and potatoes' stuff because we have meat and potatoes type of licensed trainers and coaches. Can you imagine having a Nani or like a Mendez of that young Brazilian as trainers in a DA program. They would teach the technical tricks or rather technical higher level to make our players better.  All we get are these A-licensed stiffs with lack of any creativeness on the ball to develop our youth..

    We just produce young players at that age where we're unable  to say, " look how they develop his touch  on the ball, you can tell he's getting good training, he's working with someone that knows his stuff" ,but instead it comes down, good hustle ,he's getting better. I remember there was a coach in Den Hague who was well known teaching good kicking skills. Upon seeing a player, one would usually state ,it looks like he's been trained by Rinus Loof.

    We bring over 'expertise' from Holland , France or from the moon, who themselves lack good technical finesse but are great at 'organizational structure'. As a matter of fact when comes to 'organizational structure' we're the best ,no doubt, but unfortunately it hasn't made or produce good quality soccer players.... 

  7. beautiful game, August 7, 2020 at 9:48 p.m.

    Credit coach Pareja for molding a squad that makes things happen. Orlando's movement of the ball and pace was spot on.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications