Despite Atlanta United being in the forefront of the headlines across the league the last week, it isn’t sidetracking Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja on the task ahead when both sides meet Saturday at Exploria Stadium at 8 p.m.
For the Five Stripes, it’s been a season to forget thus far. Atlanta went winless and without scoring a goal during the MLS is Back Tournament earlier this summer, and that was subsequently followed by the sacking of head coach Frank de Boer.
On Wednesday, news broke that Atlanta has agreed in principle to sell Argentine designated player Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez to Saudi Arabia side Al-Nassr FC for a reported $18 million.
For Pareja, that doesn’t change Orlando’s expectations of Atlanta heading into its weekend matchup.
“I don’t really put much attention to the opponent, I always want us to have the initiative and leadership on the idea of going out there finding the game,” said Pareja in Spanish during Thursday’s media call.
“We don’t want to speculate nor wait, and this team has been growing that type of culture within the group, so with Atlanta we don’t expect anything different,” he added. “The problems that Atlanta have, it’s their problem. We just look to better our ways and respect an Atlanta that could come with difficulties.”
Atlanta played to a 0-0 draw against Inter Miami on Wednesday, while Orlando settled with a 1-1 draw that same evening at Nashville.
Whether Pity Martinez’s absence for Atlanta gives Orlando City the advantage on Saturday, Pareja scoffed at the idea of setting the focus on one particular player.
“I don’t prepare the games for one player,” said Pareja. “That’s Atlanta’s issue. I want to talk about Nani, I want to talk about Benji [Michel]. I prepare to get the best out of our players.”
The Lions (4-2-3) currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference table with 15 points and wrap up Phase One of the MLS Restart against Inter Miami CF on Saturday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Exploria Stadium.
Moutinho injury update
João Moutinho’s road to recovery may take more time than originally thought.
The left-back defender suffered a groin injury last weekend during Orlando’s 3-1 victory over Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“We need to wait on João. The diagnostics and the injury that he has is going to take a couple weeks,” Pareja told reporters.
Moutinho did not travel to Wednesday’s match against Nashville SC, with Kamal Miller deploying as starter to fill in for the Portuguese left back.
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