Alexandre Pato was named Heineken Man of the Match by Orlando City fans voting on the LionNation App on Saturday, performing well in his first match in purple.
“[It was] a good game for Alex,” said Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja after the match. “He’s very crafty with the ball, and he created some chances for us. In the second half, when we stretched him as a No. 9, we had the best of him [and] put him in front of the goal twice.”
Pato had to play two different roles within the match. Pareja had to get creative with regular No. 10 Mauricio Pereyra suspended for the first two matches of 2021 and in the first half Orlando City came out in a 4-4-2 with Pato playing off starting center forward Tesho Akindele, dropping into spaces normally occupied by a playmaking attacking midfielder.
Central midfielder Andrés Perea replaced Akindele at halftime, changing both the team’s formation (from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3) and Pato’s role – the Brazilian would now occupy the center forward spot, with Nani and Chris Mueller flanking him among the front three.
Pato’s movement and individual skill helped produce the game’s two best chances, both coming in the second half after he switched to his natural center forward position. In the 62nd minute, Pato and midfielder Sebas Méndez combined to put Pato through on Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan, though the two collided and did not have enough space to take a clean shot. 10 minutes later, Pato cleverly shed his man and slid into the penalty area for a clean chance from Mueller, robbed of a goal only by a glancing deflection from defender Anton Walkes.
Pato finished second on Orlando City in expected goal value for the game, according to Opta, and that was without the 62nd minute chance counting towards his ledger (it went to Méndez instead). Pato also successfully completed a game-high four dribbles.