KISSIMMEE, Fla. — New Orlando City coach Óscar Pareja will show off his team for the first time when the Lions face the Montreal Impact during a preseason match open to fans.
Pareja said he sets a different objective each week, allowing his team to build continuously toward the product he hopes to deploy during the season opener. During the first two weeks of preseason, these objectives have been mainly physical.
It was highlighted by the group’s 10-day training camp in Cancún, which captain Nani described as far from a vacation as the team endured three training sessions daily. This is typical for a Pareja preseason. He calls it “overload” week, bringing the whole team to the same fitness level and forcing new and old players alike to bond.
While the time in Cancún raised the group’s fitness level, Pareja also said he hoped the time together forged a chemistry that can “shorten the path” toward creating cohesion across the roster.
It also provided a kick start for two of the Lions’ most important scoring threats — Nani and Dom Dwyer, who scored one goal apiece during the team’s scrimmage against Inter Playa on Tuesday.
The coach tempered his response to the preseason result, noting the Liga MX side wasn’t the same type of opponent Orlando City will face throughout the MLS season. But providing fuel to both goal scorers early — particularly to Dwyer, who suffered a shooting slump in 2019 — was an invaluable opportunity for Pareja’s squad.
“It always will be important that your forwards score goals,” Pareja said. “It’s encouraging and it’s optimistic. At the same time, we have to recognize we haven’t had the type of rivals we’re going to face. But it’s a building process right now. To have these guys score is encouraging.”
A couple shots from this morning, when Orlando City trained all together at Exploria Stadium for the first time ahead of the team's first open preseason match tomorrow night. pic.twitter.com/rxALYzCRK6
— Julia Poe (@jpoe24601) February 7, 2020
Beyond the major adjustment to the new training facility, Pareja has brought changes of his own to training, such as earlier practice times and the trip to Mexico. In the opening two weeks of the preseason, Nani said the team has taken well to the new coach.
Nani said he feels eager to play in front of the Orlando City fans, adding that he is interested to see what difference fans will discern from the team’s new additions to the roster and coaching staff.
“We’ve been working hard, we are in good shape and tomorrow we have the opportunity to show that,” Nani said. “We can show the small side of the coach, what he wants us to do in the field. The way he wants us to play, I think, is a different style of the game than we are used to see Orlando play in our stadium, in our home. This season will be different.”
After focusing on the physical side of the game, the Lions will begin locking onto tactics.
Although vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi said he planned to have the roster set by the first week of preseason, Pareja did not rule out the possibility of adding players before the season opener.
However, he said he is now preparing for the regular season with the current lineup.
“As coaches, we want more every day,” Pareja said. “If we can bring better players, it’s our job to do that. At the moment, I recognize that the ones I have in the locker room today are the ones who are working hard. If somebody comes, it would be welcome. If nobody comes, we will fight with the players that we have.”