Looking to further his seamless transition to life in MLS, Nani attempts to extend his purple patch of scoring Saturday when Orlando City SC hosts Toronto FC.
Though the lower-profile of the two former Manchester United attackers currently toiling in MLS, Nani has made an impact similar to what Wayne Rooney did last year at D.C. United. The former Portugal international has factored in nine of Orlando’s 13 goals thus far, scoring five and assisting on four others as the Lions (3-3-3) have climbed their way to the middle of the table in the Eastern Conference.
Nani accounted for Orlando City’s offense in its 1-1 draw at New York City FC last Saturday, scoring in the 18th minute to extend his goal-scoring streak to four matches. He has formed a solid partnership in attack with Dom Dwyer, and the interplay of the duo has helped the Portuguese winger find space for dangerous scoring chances – Nani has put at least two shots on target in five straight games.
“The goals (are) always important when you have the team,” he noted. “My focus is not all about the goals, obviously, I am very happy to score. Like I said what gives me the opportunity is the way the team is playing, the way the team has improved in the last games. We have been playing well, we have been playing better. More consistent, we have been showing we are a better team since the beginning of the season.”
While Nani and Dwyer are in the spotlight, Tesho Akindele has been a valued contributor with a pair of goals. After five seasons in FC Dallas without consistent starting playing time, the Canada international has also quickly settled with his new side.
Toronto FC (4-1-2) is looking to regroup from a 2-1 home loss Sunday to Portland that left coach Greg Vanney frustrated. Jonathan Osorio staked the Reds to a lead in the 20th minute, but the Timbers quickly equalized and grabbed all three points when Jeremy Ebobisse scored on 70 minutes.
“Disconnected in that way; disconnected in some of our possessions. It’s one thing to pass the ball around and keep possession,” he noted. “It’s another thing to take a possession and turn it into a real attack.
“To (do so) you have to have people who are moving in coordination with each other to manipulate the defending positions of the opposition create space, get behind them. A lot of things were a little bit individual and too slow to have any real bite to it.”
One reason for the lack of cohesiveness, especially in the final third, is the absence of injured striker Jozy Altidore, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. That puts almost all of the offensive burden – both scoring and playmaking – on Alex Pozuelo. Compounding problems is a suddenly porous defense that has shipped 10 goals in those four matches.
Orlando City is just 2-7-1 all-time versus Toronto FC, but one of those victories came at home last year as Chris Schuler and Dwyer’s goals bracketed halftime in a 2-1 victory.
(Nani photo courtesy Nani official Twitter account)