ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City SC has only had two full weeks of preseason training and already the team faces an early season challenge to end the month of January.
The Lions will take on Brazilian giant, Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, from Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET, with streaming available on OrlandoCitySC.com.
"Really happy to be present with this opportunity to play against Flamingo at a part of the year where everybody's excited to see their teams in the new seasons and the newcomers as well," Lions Head Coach Oscar Pareja said at Inter&Co Stadium on Friday. "We have been working already for two weeks. We understand that it's an early game in the season since we finished our last season, but we took it with a lot of responsibility.
"We understand not just the opportunity but the complexity of the rival and a good club and famous players, but we are as well. We are proud of what we have here. And we're going to play the game with a lot of professionalism, with no excuses, and try to match them up in the best way possible because I think, in the end, it is a fantastic challenge for Major League Soccer, for Orlando, for all of us."
For one of the Lions' newest signings, Nico Lodeiro, it will be his first match donning the purple of Orlando City.
"I'm happy to be here in Orlando," he said. "Tomorrow will be my first game with this club, and I'm excited to play against a big team like Flamengo."
Lodeiro played for four years in Brazil, often suiting up against the Mengão many times, playing for Botafogo and Corinthians, respectively. He has also played for and against current Flamengo manager, Tite, back in 2014 and 2015 at Corinthians. For the Uruguayan, it is a special moment to face his former manager again.
"He's one of the great coaches in the football world but for me; the more important thing is that he's a very good person," Lodeiro said. "It was a special moment to see him a couple of minutes ago because I hadn't seen him in such a long time."
With Flamengo's preseason coming to a close and Orlando's just ramping up, it will be a tough contest for the home side. With that, Pareja plans to put out a full-strength lineup against the Brazilian side.
"We want to bring the team that regularly plays here in the competitions. Surely, there will be a couple of changes but not major ones. It's a great opportunity to see the youngsters, too, if the game allows it. That's the idea, but we will follow the game as it goes, and the lineup is very close to the way we started last year."