With MLS playoffs looming, Oscar Pareja says Orlando City is ‘waking up’ following victory over Atlanta

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Photo: Courtesy of Orlando City SC

Following Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium, only three games remain until the end of the 2020 regular season for Orlando City

The midweek victory not only kept the Lions in the top four of the Eastern Conference standings, which would secure them a first-round home playoff match — but it also snapped an uncanny four-game winless run that spurred off the club’s 12-game unbeaten streak prior.

If last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Inter Miami served as a wake up call for Orlando, then Wednesday’s trouncing of Atlanta displayed the Lions figuratively “waking up” with a statement victory to start building momentum ahead of the postseason.

“I think the game and the tournament right now is just waking us up and my main goal is to get this team ready for the playoffs,” said Head Coach Oscar Pareja after Wednesday’s game. “The closer we get, the better we need to be and just as I mentioned, getting the boys back into our team is great. We’ll be ready for the playoffs.”

“We had this big stretch of games where we weren’t losing,” Pareja said prior to the above response. “Sometimes things happen and against Miami, the boys deserved much more than that, but we have to finish a game where we can. Against the New York Red Bulls in the 93rd minute was very painful for us just to give away those points.”

The Lions haven’t had continual losses manifested in the regular season so far, but consistent responses to the team’s mere three losses this season have been evident.

Orlando (9-3-8, 35 points) opened the 2020 regular season drawing its first match and losing its second before MLS decided to postpone the season for almost four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once the league resumed with the month-long MLS is Back Tournament this summer, Oscar Pareja’s team were pinned as underdogs with low expectations, but surprisingly responded to doubters by making a run all the way to the competitions final match against Portland.

At the restart of the regular season just two weeks later, Orlando succumbed to its second loss of the regular season with a 3-2 result at Inter Miami.

But that loss soon catapulted Orlando City to the start of a club record 12-match unbeaten streak.

“This is due to the resilience from the players,” Pareja said in Spanish. “They have understood that our commitment is not just one objective, which at first was to have a good tournament at the MLS is Back and play the finals, which was very important to us. After that, we had some tough moments, the game that we lost at Miami and now this past game that we lost to them. The team has reacted very well, I believe that this gives us a great feeling about the team because it’s a team who knows how to answer to adversity.”

With players like Tesho Akindele, Benji Michel and Uri Rosell returning from injury and the integration of new players Matheus Aias and Alexander Alvarado, Pareja expressed his main goal in Orlando’s final three games is to prepare his side for the MLS Cup playoffs.

“We promise to be very strong and ready at the playoffs. We had some normal incidents during the season and even with that we keep fighting, fighting for the top positions. With three games left we still have the chance to be better than where we are now, this makes me very happy for the players.”


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