Nani’s case for the 2019 MLS All-Star Game Fan XI Vote presented by Target speaks for itself, but let’s indulge for a bit.
The Portuguese superstar has revitalized Orlando City and become the club’s captain within his first three months in the City Beautiful. I pointed out on Twitter when Nani was acquired that, contrary to what you’d assume from a player who left a club like Manchester United, the 32 year-old had maintained a top-shelf level of production:
Nani goals+assists per 90 min since leaving United:— Evan Weston (@EvanLWeston) February 18, 2019
14/15 - .586 (Portugal)
15/16 - .603 (Turkey)
16/17 - .603 (Spain)
17/18 - .962 (Italy, only played 655 min)
18/19 - .645 (Portugal)
Nani has actually managed to *improve* since leaving Old Trafford. @OrlandoCitySC #WelcomeNani
So how’s he doing in MLS? He’s only smashed every previous season in his career, posting a 1.103 G+A/90 mark for 2019. That’s good enough to rank him third in the entire league, behind only LAFC’s Carlos Vela (1.64) and LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (1.16). As Nani is listed in the midfield category for Fan XI voting, this makes him the most productive midfielder in MLS this season.
But beyond his statistical dominance, Nani has brought unparalleled leadership to his club. After Orlando’s 3-1 loss to Montreal on March 16, which left the team with just two points in their first three games, Nani called a players-only meeting to bring the group closer together. Bear in mind that Nani had only been with the team for a few weeks at this point.
Orlando responded by beating the Supporters’ Shield-holding New York Red Bulls on the road the following week.
More than anything, Nani has found himself embedded in the fabric of this soccer-obsessed city in just a few short months. Check out this interview with Jenny Chiu from this past weekend against Montreal, where Nani is clearly touched by the support he’s been shown:
Top 3 player in the league, top 1 leader. Nani is not only a shoo-in for the MLS All-Star team, but a legitimate MVP candidate as well.
Most memorable moment
There have been plenty so far in Nani’s short time in purple, from his 100th career goal to his free kick golazo in Salt Lake City. But I’ll go with his incredible performance against Colorado, where his brace lifted Orlando to their first home win of the season.
NANI the hero in #ORLvCOL:— Joga Bonito (@Jasoninho10) April 7, 2019
2 chances created
2/2 long balls
5/8 duels won
3 aerials won
His first #MLS goals rescued 3 points for #OCSC. Great header, then clinical penalty for late winner.#TodosPortugal pic.twitter.com/TnvUC63G9w