Orlando City

Lions complete final preparations before Champions Cup match on Wednesday


ORLANDO, Fla. — When preparing for the first game away from home, teams will often try to mimic the conditions they'll be facing in that environment. Whether it be playing on turf, in altitude or playing with a certain ball, it's important to get comfortable in a hostile environment to play your best.

It just so happens that for Saturday's preseason finale for Orlando City, Mother Nature decided to help out with that preparation.

It was cold, wet and raining consistently throughout the Lions' preseason friendly against the Colorado Rapids; it was perfect conditions for Orlando to prepare for its midweek match against Cavalry FC in Canada for the team's opening match in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup.

"Getting 45 minutes in with the guys and on the same field and conditions that we're likely going to play in is huge," forward Duncan McGuire said following the match. "Emulating a game is huge and being able to do that here in our own place is going to be very helpful before we go to Canada."

It also didn't hurt that the Lions got off to a hot start in the friendly, scoring just seconds into the game through Kyle Smith. A handball in the box by Colorado nine minutes later got Facundo Torres a goal from the penalty spot to add to the lead. Orlando dominated the first half, which saw the usual starters play with fluidity and a comfortable feel, despite the conditions on the pitch.

"It feels like the group's grown over the past week and throughout preseason," McGuire said. "It felt like it did last year at the end of the year. The ball's moving well, the team felt comfortable...I think we're on track to make some noise this year."

The Lions would make a full lineup shift for the second half, which saw MLS SuperDraft selection Jeorgio Kocevski score a stoppage-time game-winner to keep the Lions undefeated in preseason play.

"I just saw it got crossed in and had gotten cleared out, the second ball came to Felipe, and I happened to make a diagonal run," Kocevski said of his goal. "He played an unbelievable pass that was on a dime, right when they were stepping up, so I saw space in behind, and he put it exactly where it needed to be."

Now, the Lions shift focus to the real deal as they open their Concacaf Champions Cup play against Cavalry FC out in Victoria, British Colombia. All the practice and preparation will be put to the test as Orlando search for all three points to open its 2024 campaign.

Kickoff to Soccer: Events

Kickoff to Soccer: Events

City fans, we’re ready to Kickoff to Soccer with a special roster of 10 events to celebrate the 10 years of MLS in the City Beautiful. All of the events will culminate in Orlando's season opener on February 24 against CF Montréal the start of the 2024 season!