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Storylions | Can Luis Muriel Liven up the Lions’ Den?


Normally, a road trip to Florida this time of year would be a reprieve from winter’s last hurrah, but the Loons have already trained outside. Who needs the Sunshine State when you’ve got the North Star instead?

But enough about the weather; we’ve got soccer to discuss. Namely, MNUFC’s second Eastern Conference matchup in a row, this time against Orlando City. The Lions have started slow after an impressive 2023 saw them miss out on the Supporters’ Shield by just six points, but between their existing core of attackers and a few new faces in the lions’ den, they’ve got more than enough firepower to turn things around. 

Returning stars Facundo Torres and Duncan McGuire contributed a combined 27 goals and seven assists in 2023. Those guys are just 23 years old, and they’re only going to get better. Add Nico Lodeiro into the mix at the number 10 spot, and you’re cooking something seriously dangerous for opposing defenses. At least on paper.

In reality, Orlando is one of just three teams in MLS to fail to score a single goal in their first two league games. They put six past Canadian side Cavalry FC across two legs in the Concacaf Champions Cup, but the cylinders just weren’t firing against Montréal or Inter Miami. 5-0 loss to your in-state rivals? Ouch. 

But big signings are supposed to help with that, right?

About a week before the season started, Orlando City finalized a deal to bring in Luis Muriel as a Designated Player. The Colombian international striker has been plying his trade in Europe’s top leagues since 2010, scoring more than 150 goals across all competitions in that time. His combination of speed and world-class finishing have kept him kicking around with some of the sport’s best, but is he the key to correcting this misfiring Orlando team?

Muriel’s heyday came at Serie A’s Atalanta during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. He notched 18 goals in the former season before adding 22 in the latter, and he was beaten by just Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku in the scoring charts in 2020-21. That’s pretty good company, eh? 

Since then, though, it’s been a slow regression to the mean. 2021-22 saw him score nine goals, then three, and in half of the 2023-24 season, a lowly two. The Colombian Ronaldo, as he was once known, is rapidly slowing down.

Luckily for Muriel, Major League Soccer is not Serie A. This league is growing by leaps and bounds every year, but its parity and unpredictability make for a unique experience. Not every European import is successful here, but if you pick them right, they can be absolutely massive. 

Where once he relied on a mixture of athleticism and skill, Muriel must adapt to a new reality—one in which he’s not going to be able to outpace every defender to create his chances. Instead, he’ll have to rely on superior positioning and stylistic understanding if he wants to make a real difference, and only time will tell if that’s in his locker. 

With years of top-level experience already under his belt, it’s possible that Orlando’s new forward could be the cherry on top of a talented squad. Pareja’s men are already capable; a tad more oomph might be just what the doctor ordered to give them the edge they were missing in last season’s playoffs. 

Luis Muriel may not be in the best form of his career. Heck, he may not even be the best striker named Luis in the state of Florida. Then again, maybe he is. He’s certainly the less likely of the two to try and sink his teeth into your arm, so I guess it depends on your definition of “best.” Regardless of whether or not he can rediscover that 2020-21 form, one thing is for sure: his team is kind of banking on it right now. No pressure, man. 


Orlando City SC vs. Minnesota United FC

Inter & Co Stadium | Orlando, Florida

03.09.2024 | MLS Game #3

6:30 p.m. CT (Watch on MLS Season Pass)