Not two months after the conclusion of their 2021 campaign, Orlando City coaches and players returned to the Orlando Health Training Ground at Osceola Heritage Park this week to prepare for the upcoming 2022 Major League Soccer season.
“The mood for the players is good,” said Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja at his first media availability of the preseason. “They’re happy to start, they’re eager, after a couple weeks of resting the players always come back with that energy. We want to use that morale to push them up. We’re very optimistic and we can’t wait to see the boys in the training ground.”
Pareja has taken the Lions to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in each of his first two seasons in charge and oversaw an Orlando side which set new single-season Club records in points (51), wins (13) and clean sheets (9) in 2021. Now, he’s preparing his men to take the next step.
“I have spoken a lot about the continuity of our work,” said Pareja. “It’s not like we stop at the end of last year and then we start over. I think the progress of the Club is very noticeable. We are aiming for the big prize, because we want to be champions of the league, but I think many objectives have been accomplished so far.”
The goal for this first week, which began with medical checks Sunday and Monday ahead of the opening training session Tuesday morning, will be to get the players back up to speed with their fitness, said Pareja. The coaching staff gave each player an individualized plan to remain fit during their break and come back in a strong position to hit the ground running.
“I don’t have any doubt that everybody’s in a good situation in order to start physically and push them up,” said Pareja. “We have six weeks before we play the first game [vs. CF Montréal on February 27], and this one week is basically just to readjust them into training.”
There was a buoyant atmosphere at Tuesday’s training session. Along with veteran returners like Mauricio Pereyra and Júnior Urso, the session featured numerous young players from the Orlando City Academy, who are getting a taste of First Team life during the preseason.
“I want to see the youngsters too,” said Pareja. “We brought a good amount of players from our U23 and from our Academy, and so we want to just meld those players into our team and into our training, make sure these guys understand…our methodology. I want to get them close to the First Team.”
Many of the young players are expected to feature in Orlando’s first scrimmage of the 2022 preseason, set for this Sunday behind closed doors. Coverage will continue all preseason long here on OrlandoCitySC.com and on the Club’s social media platforms.