Orlando City snapped their 4-game home winless streak last Saturday after a 2-0 victory over the LA Galaxy.
A much needed victory for the Lions especially after an inconsistent start to the season so far.
Yet, amid the post-game celebrations that followed at Exploria Stadium with cumbia music sounding and loud jubilation being heard from inside the locker room, Oscar Pareja brought things back to perspective.
The win at home was much needed, he said, but sustaining a consistent form is something the team is still striving for. The win on Saturday is something to build on.
“That’s something we desire. We’re hired to win games,” said Pareja. “In reference to the players, we have a great group, Orlando and its fans, we have a group really great group. At times we don’t play as we would like and that makes us look like an inconsistent team and not a good team, but that’s not our reality. Our reality is we’re a very good team that still hasn’t reached consistency and we hope to reach it soon and continue like this but we want to win every game without a doubt.”
Entering last Saturday’s game, Orlando not only entered on a 4-game winless streak but a three-game home losing streak after falling previously 3-1 to D.C. United.
The Lions conceded 7 goals and scored only twice during that four-game stretch — much without the team’s Designated Players on the fold and mostly thanks to rookie striker Duncan McGuire.
But with that, Saturday saw the…
DPs show up
It was the first time since opening day that Pareja deployed his three designated players to the starting lineup last Saturday.
Ercan Kara, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres — all 3 of which played a part in Orlando’s two goals against the Galaxy.
“They’re really great guys. They’re great talents, and it’s fun playing with those guys,” said Kara. “It’s important. You have a pressure if you’re a designated player and you need to show it every week, and I know from these guys and from myself, it’s not always easy, but today I think we all really showed what we can do and how important we are.”
Pareja was elated for Kara scoring his first goal of the season and expressed respect toward Ojeda and Torres for taking charge in the final third.
“It is great to see Ercan scoring goals, a tremendous professional that has been waiting there,” said Pareja. “We needed someone who can put the ball in the back of the net and he stood up and made it happen. It’s great for Ercan and his discipline and his patience… Facu and Martin, they understand the responsibility that they had. Just being the protagonist of the game is great.”
It almost seemed like everything came together on Saturday. Orlando winning at home for the first time since the season opener on Feb. 25. Kara scoring his first of the regular season, Facundo Torres scoring for the first time since that opener to ensure the win over the Galaxy.
“That’s how we’re used to playing normally,” said Kara on getting the win and the goal. “That’s what everybody wants, the fans and the team because that’s how we like to play, keeping the ball, having chances. We did a great job that we have to continue it.”
Facu as the No. 10?
Facundo Torres broke his 10-game scoring drought on Saturday by scoring Orlando’s second of the night in the 57th minute during last Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Galaxy.
With Mauricio Pereyra out, Facu took the role of distributor in the final third, especially in the second half, by creating a team-high 3 chances and finishing with a passing accuracy of 80%.
A distinct role that we haven’t seen Torres play in fully yet, especially during the 10 games in which he failed to score or create any chances during that span.
Torres played the No. 10 position in an unconventional way, said Pareja.
A position, however, Torres knows too well and Pareja hinted it may have been the Uruguayan DP who suggested to Pareja on playing that role on Saturday.
“Giving him that freedom, gave us good sensations and not just that but putting him in front of the goal and scoring, we were waiting for that,” said Pareja. “As a coach, I may need to be a good listener and the game chose today that it worked. We’ll keep trying to make good decisions on behalf of the players.”
The Lions have a peculiar task heading into this weekend.
Pareja alluded in Saturday’s post-game presser to the inconsistency the team has been trying to navigate through so far 9 games into the 2023 regular season.
After back-to-back home games, Orlando goes back on the road this weekend to start a three-game road stretch which includes a midweek U.S. Open Cup match (3 games in 7 days).
Orlando takes on CF Montreal on Saturday and then travels to take on Charlotte FC in the Round of 32 of the Open Cup on Tuesday before closing the road trip in the regular season at Columbus Crew the following Saturday.
Striking consistency while stringing consecutive wins for the first time this season, especially heading into the weekend will be a task Pareja said his team will be willing to do.
“Our first objective was obviously to win at home, just to this result was crucial for us for getting back our confidence,” said Pareja after last Saturday’s win. “This season we’ve shown we’re also good on the road, but this is a new story. We need to be sharp and be prepared… and keep fighting to find that consistency that we all need.”
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