Orlando City may have suffered their second loss of the season last weekend, following a 2-1 defeat at home to the New York Red Bulls — but ahead of Wednesday’s match against Chicago Fire FC, head coach Oscar Pareja is confident the Lions will respond accordingly to their previous result with some urgency.
Kickoff for Wednesday’s game at Soldier Field is set for 8 p.m. ET on UniMás and TUDN.
“A quick turnaround with Chicago. Like always an important game, and a team who has gained momentum in the last two games,” Pareja said during Monday’s media availability. “For us, with the urgency to keep adding points, it surely will be a hard rival who has been more consistent in the last two games with the way they’ve changed their model. [We’re] analyzing aspects that we need to control from them, but also the opportunities that we have as a team to hurt them. We’re ready to fight back.”
The Fire (2-7-2, 8 points) are currently riding a two-match unbeaten streak after defeating Atlanta United, 3-0, last Saturday and drawing 3-3 a week prior against last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners, Philadelphia Union.
Orlando (6-2-3, 21 points) will be without its starting forward, Daryl Dike, who’s with the United States men’s national team ahead of this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.
Here’s more from Monday’s conference with Pareja:
Antonio Carlos out: The Brazilian centerback will miss Wednesday’s match against Chicago after leaving last Saturday’s match in the 14th minute with a lower-body injury. Pareja told reporters that he doesn’t want to risk aggravating the injury and is opting to sit him out Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Antonio Carlos confirmed on Instagram that he suffered an adductor injury and is expecting a fast recovery.
Managing Nani’s workload: The Orlando City captain leads the team with six goals and three assists in nine games for the Lions in 2021, but the question of managing his workload was brought up on Monday.
“I think we need to time him, we need to rotate him when it’s needed,” Pareja said on Nani. “The season is early but we have that in consideration for sure, not just for Nani but for some of the other guys that need it. Try to pace him and then see when is the right time just to let him come out of the bench or just keep at home or maybe skip one or two games. We have that plan. Sometimes the season, or the games are very unpredictable, the outcome or the preparation.”
“We have that in mind all the time. With Nani, I think is important that he gets to the playoffs in his best way possible,” added Pareja. “And that the team can have enough gas in those moments, but at the same time we have the responsibility to qualify first.”
Matheus Aias loaned out: On Sunday it was announced that the Brazilian forward was sent on-loan to Spanish second division side Real Oviedo for the upcoming 2021/2022 Liga SmartBank season, and there is an option to buy at the end of the loan.
For Pareja, the move to ship Aias back to Spain made sense for both parties.
Aias has the chance to play repetitively with Real Oviedo, and Orlando City has the opportunity to fill some defensive holes where they’ve been dealing with for much of the season, according to Pareja.
“With the opportunity that appears from [Matheus] and the fact that he can go and have games in Spain and the team that he’s going to, I think we’re pleased with it,” said Pareja. “But at the same time, there is an opportunity for us to open up space there. We need some depth in the back. As you see that we’re taking some time on the recovery from Joao [Moutinho] and a couple more guys, so we would like to be deeper there. So we are in the analysis of what is that piece that we need in those positions. And also that the summer is normally busy, and see if we can have any opportunity for any other position that we feel that is going to be crucial for the development of the [team].”
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