Mauricio Pereyra and Younes Namli may have passed each other once or twice in the halls of the FC Krasnodar office. That's just about the extent of how much contact they may have had at the end of May 2019. While Pereyra's contract with the club was expiring, Younes Namli's was just beginning. Even though the two were never actual teammates, the attacking midfielders share a corresponding link as former players of FC Krasnodar.
How odd is it then that the two will be facing off this Saturday in Commerce City, Colorado, over 6300 miles away from their old stadium. The Rapids, Namli's club, are hosting Orlando City, Pereyra's club, in both teams' second match of the season. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that either of these players thought that they would be in this position a year ago, yet, here they are.
Both Pereyra and Namli started off their respective seasons relatively well. Pereyra had the most take-ons completed, the second most ball recoveries, and the most fouls drawn in Orlando's 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake. Namli, on the other hand, had the second most completed take-ons and created two chances in Colorado's 2-1 win against DC United.
As the two come toe to toe on Saturday, all eyes will be on who has the greater impact on their team. At the moment, that title will seemingly lean towards Orlando's Mauricio Pereyra. With Nani out of the team, Pereyra has instantly become the heartbeat of the team. When he does well, the team does well. Orlando will lean heavily on his playmaking abilities to carry them through the game.
That's not to say that Namli can't have the same or an even bigger impact for the Colorado Rapids this weekend. Namli's best season throughout his career saw him get 4 goals and 7 assists in 33 Eredivisie appearances. These totals were accomplished just two seasons ago and he will certainly be looking to get back to those levels this season.
This 'reunion' serves as a great example of just how far the MLS has progressed in the last two to three years. The recent influx of talented players such as Pereyra and Namli has helped the league grow. The next step is to retain these players for as long as possible. With Pereyra already in the final year of his contract and Namli beginning a two-year loan with an option to buy, it will be interesting to see how long these two actually stay in the league. We can only hope that they'll be here for the foreseeable future.