After winning its home opener 2-0 over CF Montréal, Orlando City has spent the week preparing to hit the road for the first time in 2022, taking on Chicago Fire FC this Saturday night at Soldier Field.
Orlando has posted a top-three away record in the East in each of its first two seasons under Head Coach Oscar Pareja, including the second-best mark in the conference last season, behind only Supporters’ Shield-winning New England Revolution. Pareja says he has his teams approach road matches with mostly the same intensity as home matches, but with an environmental awareness.
“It’s something that may not be explained or makes sense,” said Pareja, “why normally in the whole world it’s not the same when you play at home and when you play away. There are some elements there and some things that make you feel like you’re away. In spite of all the time you talk about being aggressive, having intentions to get good results, having the initiative, as much as we preach that, it’s normal for any team in any league that the away games are different.”
The Lions are 8-10-9 in regular-season away matches since Pareja took charge and tied a team record with five road victories last season.
“We want to be that group [that wins on the road],” Pareja said. “If we want to win things, we have to be strong in our away games. It’s going to be a difference maker, the team who can win at home and away in the same manner. Bringing home points from Chicago would be fantastic.”
Left back João Moutinho, entering his fifth season in MLS and fourth with Orlando City, was asked what his best advice to new players would be about approaching the often-arduous travel in the United States.
“Stay fit, stay professional every single day,” Moutinho said. “It’s just another game, to be honest. Obviously we have the travel. It’s always long, it’s a big country. Most of the guys, a lot that came from college already know how it feels. Guys that came from South America and Europe might not know how it goes. But just stay hydrated and stay focused on the game.”
On the field, his prescription was simple: “I think being cohesive and good defensively is probably the most important part when you play away games, because those games are just harder to play.”
Chicago promises to be more threatening this season, having added to their roster decorated Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri and former Philadelphia Union striker Kacper Przybylko, among others. Fully in gameweek mode, Pareja has drilled his team on what to expect.
“We recognize Przybylko is a good striker in the league who did a good job in his years in Philadelphia,” said Pareja when asked about the Polish forward, who has six goals in five games against Orlando. “He’s a striker who needs service, wingers like [Stanislav] Ivanov and [Fabian] Herbers can provide service. Even the new signing Shaqiri is a very crafty guy. [They have] fullbacks that go [attack] too. It’s one of their strengths, but we are aware of that and we have trained to control those things Chicago brings.”
The match is set to kick off at 6 p.m. ET, with local television coverage available on FOX35 PLUS and LionNation TV beginning with the Orlando City Pre-Game Show at 5:30.