For the second consecutive week, Orlando City faces another short turnaround starting with Wednesday’s road trip against Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium at 8:30 p.m.
That match is soon followed three days later as the Lions host Atlanta United on Saturday at Exploria Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
For Head Coach Oscar Pareja, keeping the team’s rotation of players heading into the two-game week will be key to getting the best performances from his squad.
“We want to continue with our intentions in rotating our players,” Pareja said in Spanish during Monday’s press call (via Zoom). “We hope to have all the guys ready with the same energy they gave against Atlanta [last weekend]. We were especially pleased to see the guys who came off the bench put in great effective work as well.”
Orlando (4-2-2, 14 points) defeated Atlanta United 3-1 last Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — its first victory against the Five Stripes in 10 tries. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Nashville (2-4-1, 7 points) earned a narrow 1-0 home victory over Inter Miami.
Despite the teams meeting last week, a game in which Orlando defeated Nashville 3-1 at home, Pareja still sees the MLS expansion side as a challenge heading into Wednesday’s meetup.
“They’re a team that continues to grow,” said Pareja. “As they continue to play more games, we’re beginning to see a team that’s maturing alike like us where we’ve had some difficulties, but we’re going to prepare in our own way, looking to take the lead knowing we have a tough task ahead.”
Knack for Goals
Orlando City may be off to an impressive run this year, but it’s been a consistent offense that’s been a major key for the Lions, according to Pareja.
The Lions have recorded 15 goals in eight games so far this season — the most in the Eastern Conference and third in MLS behind Sporting KC’s 18 goals in eight games and LAFC’s 16 goals in seven matches.
“The players are responding to the idea of playing an offense-style of soccer,” said Pareja. “We want to respect the ball and we want to, when it’s possible, have a high volume of possession — a possession aimed at scoring goals — and I think the lads have done a great job in that regard.”
Orlando’s offense is led by Chris Mueller’s team-leading six goals, followed by captain Nani (5) and Daryl Dike (3) while Mauricio Pereyra and Tesho Akindele, respectively, have two goals each.
For Pareja, though, the task is not only deploying a team with an attacking edge but also balancing it with a solid defense.
“[We’re] not only having the ball, but we’ve been a team that’s been very effective [and] because the amount of goals that we have is important, we want to continue with that, being efficient in our attack and reducing the number of goals that we concede and that’s another task we have to complete,” said the Orlando head coach.
Matheus Aiás timeline
After signing Matheus Aiás last month, the arrival on the 23-year-old Brazilian forward from Watford FC still remains unclear.
“It’s not very accurate,” said Pareja. “This is due to all these unexpected things that we are living in at the moment. We don’t even know … this is a process and all these things. Now with this pandemic, and the times are all difficult, so I would like to be accurate, but we’re hoping that we can just resolve the documents soon and he can be available.”
Pareja did add that the club has been in touch with Aiás and has been monitoring his fitness during this waiting period.
Once Aiás obtains his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and P-1 visa, he will have to complete 10 days of quarantine mandated by MLS and also receive two negative COVID-19 tests before joining the team in person for training.
Joao Moutinho: After leaving last weekend’s game in the 78th minute with an apparent groin injury, Pareja said he saw Moutinho on Monday looking “normal” and “feeling much better” but still said it’s going to take a couple of days to see how he recovers.
Tesho Akindele: The forward missed Orlando’s last two games which Pareja confirmed was due to tightness last week, but is “full to go” this week for the Lions.
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