Pareja Era Begins as Lions Launch 2020 Preseason

And we’re back.

On Monday morning, the Lions took the field for the first time at the new home of their training operations - the Orlando City SC Training Ground.

It was a day of firsts in Osceola County, with the Oscar Pareja era officially underway as the 2016 MLS Coach of the Year led his first session with his new Club. With a combination of Club veterans along with plenty of new faces on the roster, Monday’s first session was representative of a new chapter and a fresh start for everyone in City’s camp. 

Now with a few training sessions under the belt, Lions new and old have been able to gauge the style of the new man at the helm. Forward Tesho Akindele, who played for Pareja in his time at FC Dallas, had one word to describe it.

“His main thing is intensity. He’s a very intense person on and off the field,” Akindele said of Pareja. “He’s going to demand a competitive attitude all day, everyday in training, so people need to be ready to be intense and bring that to practice.”

As with any preseason, the last few days have matched the very intensity Akindele is describing. While there have been some touches on the ball, there is the typical emphasis on fitness and strength training any athlete would associate with the weeks before their respective season starts, along with double sessions. 

To counter the physical demand of it all, however, is the excitement of getting back on the field. The energy is apparent amongst everyone - players, coaching staff and team personnel. It was especially evident with the coaching staff jumping into Thursday morning’s rondos to get the session started.   

Part of that energy stems from the high level of competition amongst this year's group. With the addition of big-name offseason acquisitions like Peruvian National Team goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and former Corinthians midfielder Júnior Urso added to an already talented City roster, there is an apparent level of competitive energy amongst the group. 

“I’ve seen a lot of big name guys come in,” Akindele said of the new faces on the squad. “I’m excited, I think we’ve brought in a lot of talent at lots of positions, lots of competition which is what we thrive on.”

All of these elements considered, there is a lot to be excited about nearing the end of the first week of preseason. We’ve seen the team begin to gel together, with the new faces continuing to integrate themselves amongst the familiar, while getting our first glimpse of the new culture led by Pareja.

“He seems to get his message across in a very clear and concise way,” defender João Moutinho said. “We’ve been doing a lot of physical stuff, we’ve had some tough sessions but I can see that he wants us to play good football and that’s what we all want to do.”

After the weekend, the Lions will travel to Cancún, Mexico to continue their training before returning to Orlando to host the Montreal Impact on Saturday, Feb. 8 in a preseason match at Exploria Stadium, the first chance for fans to catch a glimpse of the new-look squad. 

Orlando City will open its 2020 MLS campaign on Saturday, Feb. 29 when it hosts Real Salt Lake at Exploria Stadium, with kickoff slated for 6 p.m. ET. Tickets for that game, and the open preseason matches, can be purchased at the link here.