When midfielder Cam Lindley played college soccer last year at North Carolina, he never thought a year later he would be training on a deep Orlando City squad stacked with big-name talents from across Major League Soccer.
Lindley, a fellow rookie alongside Chris Mueller, said it was surreal to now be teammates with Sacha Kljestan, Dom Dwyer and Justin Meram.
“It’s kind of funny. Me and Chris [Mueller] would talk about that before coming in,” Lindley said. “Obviously, we were star-struck, we were looking at the guys and were like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ but we played it as cool as possible.
“But now that we’ve came in, we’re more like that’s pretty cool to be playing with these guys. When they traded for Justin [Meram,] we were super excited, especially Chris. … Justin and Chris, they play kind of similar, so it’s cool to play with these guys.”
The Lions will play their final preseason training scrimmage on Saturday against the Chicago Fire at Orlando City Stadium. The game will be closed-door.
Toia accepts challenge
When Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis said earlier this preseason everyone on the roster is in contention to compete for a starting spot, that included stiff competition at left back for Donny Toia – a position he firmly held for most of last season.
Toia said he knows he’s embracing the competition.
“It’s good. It’s what you want, competition. You want to battle for the spot,” Toia said after Wednesday’s training session. “I played a lot of minutes last year and started a majority of the games, but it’s a new season, so it doesn’t matter. It’s a new season, you’re always competing. It’s good to have competition. You just have to go out there, do your job the best you can and hopefully you get the call up.”
Toia, 25, played 30 of Orlando’s 34-game MLS schedule last year. He also logged a career-high 2,545 minutes played while recording a personal-high three assists for the Lions in 2017.
While the Tucson, Ariz., native was one of the few holdovers from Orlando’s squad last year, it meant his position at left back was being filled with more competition.
Victor ‘PC’ Giro and newcomer Mohamed El-Munir will be competing with Toia for the starting position at left back, which makes up Orlando’s back line.
While this offseason overhaul of players may be the reason why there’s such pressure, Toia says the moves the team made will help the club this season.
“Last year, there was pressure. This year, even more pressure,” said Toia. “A lot of new faces, but we got a good and deep squad. Everything that’s happening is for the better. All we can do is look forward and get better… everything is positive.”