Orlando City uncover much-needed defensive depth in Pereira, PC

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Orlando City SC might have come away with only one point from their midweek cross-country trip, but they’re bringing home two other valuable pieces uncovered at Avaya Stadium.

With a successful dual debut in a 1-1 tie against the San Jose Earthquakes, young Brazilian defenders Victor “PC” Giro and Leonardo Pereira showed that they might be the answer to help shore up a Lions defense which had been leaking goals in May.

PC, 23, and Pereira, 21, ably manned the left side of Orlando City’s defense against a Quakes side that came in averaging 1.8 goals per home match and helped hold San Jose to just one late, somewhat fluky score. Tommy Thompson’s errant shot off an 83rd-minute corner kick was redirected at the back post by San Jose captain Chris Wondolowski.

“I thought they were both spectacular,” Orlando coach Jason Kreis said of the duo. “That’s probably one of the things that makes me the happiest about this performance is we’ve gained, basically, two players. … We didn’t know for sure whether they would be able to contribute at this level and I think they both proved tonight that they’re quite capable of it.”

PC and Pereira fared well even without the benefit of veteran cover that Kreis was hoping to give them. US international Jonathan Spector was originally slated to partner Pereira in the middle of Orlando’s defense, but illness forced the 31-year-old to sit out, leaving the role up to 24-year-old Uruguayan Jose Aja instead.

“I said before the game that the objective for us was pretty clear; we needed to defend better and I felt like we did that,” said Kreis, whose side had allowed eight goals in three matches this month after letting in just five during their first seven games. “Obviously, we hate to concede the goal – it would have been nice to walk out of here with a shutout – but it comes off a dead ball, so that’s a matter of organization that we didn’t quite get settled.”

PC, who came to OCSC on an inter-league, intra-state transfer from the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers, almost notched his first MLS goal in the 32nd minute when his left-footed strike from a layoff by Luis Gil found the crossbar. He settled for a first career assist, latching onto Kaká’s lead pass in the 80th minute and pulling the ball back to set up Carlos Rivas for a composed side-foot finish from 13 yards.

Defensively, PC and Pereira were credited with a combined seven tackles, and the latter had a critical interception late in the first half, turning aside a cross from San Jose forward Marco Urena as Wondolowski and Jahmir Hyka lurked dangerously in the area.

“Incredible,” Kaká said of his countrymen’s combined debut. “They played very good. PC had the assist for the goal and Leo played an amazing game. It’s not easy when you have to make your first game on the road, in a tough place to play. So congratulations to both of them.”