Orlando City

Hunting Journal | Focused mentality


ORLANDO, Fla. — What a difference a week makes.

In last week's Hunting Journal, I wrote about how the mood around training from Orlando Health Training Ground at Osceola Heritage Park was fun, joyful and exciting.

Friday's training session in preparation for Tuesday's away match for Orlando City felt less fun and more business.

Sure, there were still jokes shared around as the boys warmed up on a chilly morning in Kissimmee, Florida, but the temperature around the team was a cool confidence.

After getting that first win against Nashville this past Monday, the Lions know they are just 90 minutes away from getting into the next round of the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

"We're feeling confident heading into this match," Lions defender Rafael Santos said before training. "We know that it's going to be a difficult game. We know that we're going there, and they need the results, but we're confident - confident coming in after the result that we just had at home. We're confident knowing that we beat them."

It's been a consistent theme over the last few months for this Lions team: confidence. It radiates from the team every time the players step on the pitch, and it's shown in their last few months of results.

A team playing with confidence is a dangerous thing.

On the other side, the Lions will be playing a Nashville team playing with desperation. Nashville needs a win to keep its playoff dreams alive, and being able to host the second leg of the first round could be a big boost to its prospects of doing just that.

After talking with Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja before training, he knows that desperation will change how the team plays this coming Tuesday.

"Surely some behaviors in the field may change, but we're preparing for that," he said. "We're trying to put in the equation, 'what could happen if?' But we'll game plan and then wait for the game to see how it develops."

The preparation started fairly quickly after some warmup drills. The practice was just an hour-and-a-half long, but the session was intense and focused. Many of the Orlando City B players that are still in town hopped in with the training as well to help. Many of those players are looking to prove themselves to the coaching staff for next year, so it adds a bit of extra intensity to these trainings.

While the physical side of the preparation has been going strong, Oscar has been preaching the mental preparation for his team over the last week, especially heading to a hostile atmosphere in Nashville this week.

"Just be present in the moment," Pareja said of the team's mentality. "I ask for the players every single day that we have to live one day at a time, one game at a time, and this series is the same. We have a big responsibility to prepare a game that can advance us to the next phase, but we have to go and play (Nashville), and surely, it's going to be a big challenge."

2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | First Round, Game 2

2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | First Round, Game 2

2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | First Round, Game 2

Don't miss Kickoff -60, airing one hour before Orlando City's match, exclusively on the LionNation App. Join host Gabrielle Amado and Orlando City’s English-language radio talents Evan Weston and Paul Shaw as they break down the upcoming match, with special guests appearing regularly throughout the season.

Fans can download the LionNation App at the link here.