Orlando City will break new ground as a club on Tuesday night when they take the field in Monterrey, Mexico. Last season’s U.S. Open Cup champions will make their CONCACAF Champions League debut against 2020 CCL champions Tigres in Leg 1 of the Round of 16.
Kickoff is set for 10 p.m. and will televise on FS2 and TUDN.
72 hours after the final whistle blew against FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, the Lions have quickly turned their attention to Tigres, one of the highest-spending teams in the CONCACAF region consistently over many years and arguably one of the strongest teams Orlando will take the field against this season.
“Now we have Tigres in front of us. They are one of the best teams in the territory, one of the best teams in the competition, they are the super Tigres and all those things, but we are Orlando City and we are going to go there with faith, with character and we know we can do this,” manager Oscar Pareja said of the matchup on Saturday night. “We are going to represent what we earn. Now we are in Tigres mode and we are going to travel tomorrow, we turn around. Now Cincinnati is gone, and we go to Monterrey with positives, with energy and pride as we take Orlando City into its first international competition. We are proud.”
Pareja rotated his lineup heavily against Cincinnati, carrying over just five starters from the team’s Matchday 1 victory one week prior, and gave some of the key players that did start roughly 45-60 minutes and others 30-45 off the bench. With five games in a span of 15 days starting the match this past weekend, including Leg 2 against Tigres in Orlando next Wednesday, this will be an ongoing issue for the group over the next four games.
“We feel alright recovering now, we had some rotation during the last game,” midfielder Mauricio Pereyra said on Monday ahead of the match. “The coaching staff tried to manage the time we had during the game so I think all of us are at full recovery, the rest of them played 90 minutes. But most of us are rested, we played 45 or less minutes and we are ready for the game.”
For a club that is used to playing its home matches in what many around MLS would call a tough environment, tonight’s opener will be in an environment unlike many in MLS. Tigres is one of the best-supported home teams across North America, averaging over 40,000 fans per game at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario.
For Orlando, however, Pereyra says that for many of the players on the roster, this type of environment will be hardly new to them.
“It’ll be one of the first games we’ve played like this together as a group but individually most of us come from South America and this kind of atmosphere around we’re used to playing,” he said. “In my case, the last time it was like 11 years ago but the other guys they are used to playing games like this when they played the [Copa] Libertadores. It’s mostly the same atmosphere, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem with this.”
Oscar Pareja said during Monday night’s availability that the squad is largely healthy and ready to go. Just about everybody expect for Antonio Carlos (leg injury) will be available for selection.
It’s unclear if forward Ramiro Enrique (lower-body tightness) will play, but he was involved in full training with the team on Monday, a sign that he should at least be ready to go if called upon.
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