Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the Orlando City training grounds this week was the medical clearance of Brazilian forward Matheus Aias ahead of Saturday’s match in Fort Lauderdale against Inter Miami (3:30 p.m. on Univision).
Head coach Oscar Pareja confirmed with reporters on Thursday that Aias will be available for selection this weekend, including recent loan signing Alexander Alvarado — who’s been medically cleared after signing with Orlando last week.
“Matheus Aias is ready for selection,” said Pareja. “We have been getting him already obviously with the boundaries and protocols, but now he’s able for selection and [Alexander] also. They didn’t have too many trainings with us, but we have been talking with them, by phone, video and things like that trying to merge them into our system.”
Aias, 23, signed a two and-a-half year contract (with an option) on Aug. 21 after Orlando paid an undisclosed transfer fee to Watford FC, but wasn’t medically cleared to fully train with the club until last Friday.
On Oct. 12, Orlando City announced the loan signing of 21-year-old winger Alexander Alvarado from Ecuadorian club S.D. Aucas.
“Kid came here in good form, we need to just adapt him a little bit on the team, the idea, and the way we do things here,” said Pareja on Alvarado. “Trying to accelerate the process, but Alex, for me, and most importantly, beside if he’s available on the protocols that I’ve received, the news is just make sure that he comes in the moment that he has the best opportunity to perform well. I don’t want to rush everything all at once.”
Orlando City (8-2-8, 32 points) officially clinched its first-ever playoff spot last Sunday following a 0-0 draw against the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC defeating Atlanta United 1-0 that same night.
The Lions will be taking on a Miami side without Gonzalo Higuaín, who’s suspended for the match after receiving a red card last game.
Diego Alonso’s side will have Rodolfo Pizarro available for selection.
Despite that, Pareja isn’t preparing any different when Orlando and Miami meet for the fourth time this year.
“We barely plan our games with the sole purpose on one player,” said Pareja in Spanish. “We always look at games as collective parts. We’ve faced Miami with a various No. 9s; Robbie Robinson, Julian Carranza and now with having signed Higuaín, we’ve expected he’s going to be like any other striker of his class.”
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