A battle for dominance.
That’s how Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja sees the upcoming Round of 16 bout between his Lions and the Montreal Impact in the MLS is Back Tournament.
Both sides kick off Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN 2/Deportes from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“I think it’s going to be a battle in terms of who wants it,” Pareja told reporters on Thursday. “We want the ball, also our players have been training to do that. We played against New York with the same idea to battle for the ball and try to have the ball from the beginning of the game, so we don’t have to go chasing the game.”
Pareja noted similarities to the way both teams have started their respective games during this tournament.
“It works in the opening [to start with possession] and with Montreal, it’s the same case… it’s going to be a beautiful game and indeed this is a team who has an idea of possession too and we’re going to fight for the ball, for sure,” said Pareja.
The Impact head into Saturday’s match having finished in third place (1-2) in Group C play.
Despite those two losses, Thierry Henry’s side out-possessed the teams they lost to in the New England Revolution (55.6% to 44.4%) and Toronto FC (58.8% to 42.%).
Orlando similarly dominated possession for all three of its group stage matches — which resulted in the Lions winning Group A of MLS’s return to play competition.
The Lions are currently 2-0-1 in the MLS is Back Tournament and 2-1-2 in the overall season, sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Chris Mueller leads Orlando with three goals in three appearances in the tournament.
The winner of Saturday’s game advances to the quarterfinals to play the winner of Seattle and LAFC. It’s also worth remembering, only group stage matches applied to the regular-season standings.
The status’ of Dom Dwyer and Junior Urso remains a bit unclear heading into the weekend.
Dwyer was held out for precaution prior to last Monday’s 1-1 draw against Philadelphia with reported muscle tightness, while Urso’s playing time in that game was cut short in the 19th minute after an apparent groin injury.
But Pareja was adamant to reveal their current health status.
“Last game unfortunately with Dom, he presented tightness, and we wanted to be very conservative with him. We didn’t want risk him and that’s why he was out of the roster,” said Pareja.
“He has been recovering very fast, so we will have them both in training surely [Thursday tonight] and we will evaluate to see. In terms with Junior, we’re kind of in the same spot with him, Junior presents some tightness too, which is very normal at this stage of the tournament.”
Pareja said he’s not too worried about that and both players will be evaluated in the coming days, adding the roster is healthy and “almost everybody is available” heading into Saturday’s game.
Mueller, USMNT talk
Chris Mueller’s run of form with the Lions has made some nationwide noise.
The third-year forward from the University of Wisconsin leads Orlando with four goals in five games this year and has received plenty of praise from Pareja recently.
With United States Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter present on-site at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the question that lingers among Orlando City fans: What are Chris Mueller’s thoughts on playing for the USMNT one day?
“I think that any kid who grows up in any country playing their sport, dreams of playing for their national team that’s kind of a given thing,” Mueller told reporters. “And obviously, it’s something that I aspire to do, but I’m also not getting too far ahead of myself because, like I said, it’s only been a couple of games.”
Mueller confirmed he has not talked with Berhalter, but expressed hope in playing with the national team when the appropriate time arrives.
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