Orlando City’s first team returned to full team training this week for the first time since March 12, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down all Major League Soccer competitions. For second-year defender Kamal Miller, it’s about time.
“We’ve been anticipating this moment and dying to get back on the pitch together for a very long time,” said Miller after Wednesday’s session. “All the hard work we’ve put in while in quarantine and during the individual sessions has all been worth it, now that we’re finally back training as a team, [that’s] probably the best feeling for all of us.”
Orlando first returned to individual training on May 6 after nearly two months away from the pitch. Initially, each player had to work out in an isolated portion of the pitch. On May 28, small group training was allowed, but the Lions only made the return to full team training on Monday following last week’s announcement of the MLS is Back Tournament, which will be held at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, just down the road from the Orlando City SC Training Ground.
As part of the return to full team training, Head Coach Oscar Pareja and his staff are able to join the players on the pitch for regular instruction and tactical planning. Miller and his teammates have welcomed them back with open arms.
“To have all the coaches back has been absolutely amazing," said Miller. “Their presence and awareness on the pitch to get us through these sessions and really prepare us for what’s coming has been very good.”
Even when quarantined, Orlando City players were staying fit at their homes, often outside in the sweltering Florida sun. While anyone who lives in Orlando knows it’s hard to truly become accustomed to the heat and humidity, Miller believes the mindset developed by grinding in Florida’s harsh environment will give the Lions an advantage.
“Moving into this tournament, the message is definitely to be the hardest working team there,” said Miller. “We’ve been working extremely hard in these conditions every day to make sure we’re ready for the tournament. So when the tournament finally gets here, we know that no team will outwork us, and we’ll do everything we can to defend our home and defend our home state of Florida.”
Orlando City are scheduled to play in the MLS is Back Tournament opener match in its first-ever meeting with Inter Miami CF on July 8. A full tournament schedule and broadcast information will be released at a later date.