For the first time since entering Major League Soccer in 2015 and with more than half of the 2020 regular season complete, Orlando City is in prime position to compete for more than just qualifying for the MLS Cup playoffs.
Speaking with reporters on Friday, head coach Oscar Pareja expressed belief in his players to contend not only for a playoff spot for the first time, but winning the league’s regular-season title.
“It’s a legitimate goal, to play for the Supporters’ Shield, so why not think that Orlando can win it,” Pareja said in Spanish. “We can also even think of being protagonists in the playoffs, but every objective brings its own challenges, [and] the mentality of our players has to be in thinking in the present.”
Pareja said prior: “You always have to maximize your aspirations. From day one, when we arrived to Orlando, we aimed to put this team at the most highest in the standings and with our aspirations.”
“… We’ve been achieving objectives through time, and we continue with the same tone on accomplishing the next objective which is making the playoffs for the first time and from there come more goals.”
Orlando (7-2-4) currently sit in second place in both the Eastern Conference and overall standings at 25 points with 10 games left to the season. The Columbus Crew (9-1-3) lead the East and the race for the Supporters’ Shield at 30 points with 13 games played in the 23-game season MLS proposed shortly after announcing it was returning to local markets.
In their first year under Pareja, Orlando City made it to the final of the MLS is Back Tournament this summer, losing to the Portland Timbers 2-1 in the championship match.
The winner of the Supporters Shield also gets an automatic berth to the CONCACAF Champions League.
In the midst of a club record seven-game unbeaten streak, Orlando travels to take on FC Dallas on Sunday at Toyota Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET and will televise locally on FOX 35 Plus.
For Pareja, the trip to Dallas is a return to a place where he saw plenty of success, winning the Supporters Shield and U.S. Open Cup in 2016 when he coached Dallas from 2014-2018. Pareja also won the MLS Coach of the Year in 2016.
“If I try to ignore that I’m going to a place where I spent most of my life and career, as a player and coach,” Pareja said on his return to Dallas. “[It’s] also a place where my kids were born and a place where I have such a great time with friends, family and the community, and the club and players there. It is special, but at the end of the day, it’s a game that just comes, and we’re trying to prepare and so the same as we’ve done, but the reality, it’s special to be back in Dallas.”
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