Considering starting left back João Moutinho is returning from injury, thus shifting right back Kyle Smith to fill in that void as the de facto starter for the time being, Orlando City finds itself in a conundrum at the left outside-back position with almost two weeks to go until the start of the 2021 MLS regular season.
Head coach Oscar Pareja was coy about the dilemma during Thursday’s media day.
Pareja, who’s looking to steer the Lions towards a second consecutive playoffs appearance this year, told reporters that Moutinho is heading in a good direction with his recovery, but acknowledged the situation at left back is being evaluated by his staff.
“João is very important player for our structure and for the club. He’s a player that I have a special ties with because I like the way he helps us play our game,” Pareja said. “But at the same time, we have to evaluate that in the end the most important is the team and the team has to be moving on.”
Moutinho underwent surgery in December to treat a hip injury, which saw him miss the second half of the 2020 campaign, and is scheduled to return somewhere between April and June this year.
Pareja told reporters that Moutinho is two weeks away from doing more serious contact, but also did not rule out a possible signing to help fill a necessary role.
“We didn’t bring, so far, any other player. We will consider it, we will do if it’s necessary,” said Pareja. “We think that at this point, the way we are, we’re good, but certainly we are managing the possibility to see if there is a left back somewhere that we can bring, but I don’t just want to do it to fulfill a spot or to fill in a spot, I want to do it with sense because it’s a very important position for us and then hopefully João is going to be the one or Kyle [Smith] or one of the guys that are doing that job.”
Selected Academy players have been training with the Lions for most of the preseason, and former Minnesota United left back Sam Gleadle is currently training with Orlando on a trial basis.
On Thursday, Brazilian outlet Globo Esporte reported that Vasco da Gama left back Henrique is currently under Orlando City’s radar.
The current MLS primary transfer window closes on June 1st should Orlando find a extremely-necessary need at left back.
Orlando City opens the 2021 season at home against Atlanta United on April 17 at Exploria Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. and will broadcast on UniMás/TUDN/Twitter.
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