The start of the 2021 MLS season is has been a prolific one for a number of the league's most high-profile attackers, with Orlando City captain Nani one of several in fine form. He scored his third goal in three games on Saturday's 1-1 draw with New York City FC, each one of them worthy nominees for any AT&T Goal of the Week contest.
It was the biggest highlight for Orlando in a match where the team dominated stretches of the game, but an imperfect performance resulted a draw.
"Nani represents, with his performance, what is a good mode of the team," Orlando head coach Oscar Pareja said in a virtual press conference after the match. "I think he’s finishing, scoring important goals for us, buying time as well to recover some other plays that are important for the squad but I’m glad to see him and the rest of the group with this good level. I’m proud of them."
Now aged 34 and in his third season in South Florida, Nani attributed his spectacular early season from to hard work in preseason and early in the 2021 campaign.
"I’ve been working so hard and been focused on my games," he said post-match. "I think this is a reward [for] what you do during the week, the preparation into the games."
Nani's goal looked set to send Orlando to three points and top place in the Eastern Conference. But the concession of a penalty in the 75th minute allowed NYCFC back in and resulted in a draw that Orlando's captain admitted was underwhelming.
"We are very disappointed with the result, Nani said. "We are very ambitious at this moment. We want to improve. We want to get our victories and we have to be not happy with the result."
Pareja felt the same way, emphasizing that several players put in a strong show on Saturday that deserved better.
"We have not just [Nani] but many players in a very good level in a very early stage of the season," Pareja said. "When you see the result and you see the performances, you may think that the outcome needs to be better but I know they are conscious about their moment and they are playing well."
Like Pareja, Nani was keen to focus on the team, and their lofty ambitions.
"It’s good to score but I think I need to continue to focus to help the team on winning the games," he said. "Sometimes I will score beautiful goals but like I said, for me it’s not the most important thing, scoring goals. [It's] helping the team any way inside the field."