It’s been four months to the day since Oscar Pareja’s Orlando City took on the Colorado Rapids. Now, as his team eyes their first game back on Wednesday against in-state rivals Inter Miami CF, all eyes will be on the Lions and how they play after time away.
“We’re very happy to be back in the competition and see great opportunity to help in this difficult moment,” Pareja said on a conference call Tuesday. “The communities, the country, our entire society is listening to difficult news and is just given an opportunity again to see MLS. We are pleased, we’re happy and getting ready for that.”
Orlando was one of the first teams inside the MLS bubble back on June 25th and have since treated the last week and a half as a second preseason. Holding two practices a day, trying to build back the fitness the team lost in their three months away from the pitch.
“At this point, I see our team in a good situation. I see them fit, and now obviously, we have the challenges of not having too many games or not having games to prepare. But we’re putting that aside and trying to focus on what is coming. Fitness wise, I think we’ll be fine.”
The team’s first challenge against Miami on Wednesday will be the first time these two Florida teams will meet in their history. It also marks the first time two teams from Florida have played an MLS match since 2001.
For Pareja, he believes this match could be the start of a new rivalry for Orlando.
“Miami is a new franchise with a lot of expectations. Surely we have the responsibility to defend our home. The rivalry is going to grow the more times we confront each other, little by little. These are traditions that are formed as the years go by. We’re proud that we get to start this rivalry. To have the first official match with Miami, we hope we can have a successful night.”
Kickoff for the match is set for July 8th at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World.
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