ORLANDO, Fla. — Just nine days into its 2024 preseason, Orlando City SC faced one of its toughest challenges before the team kicks off the MLS regular season in late February, and the Lions looked formidable. Orlando City hosted Clube de Regatas do Flamengo in the FC Series friendly on Saturday, playing to a 1-1 draw at Inter&Co Stadium.
The match was fairly even for a majority of the contest, with the Lions creating multiple chances in the offensive third and eventually scoring through some beautiful buildup between Ivan Angulo and the team's newest signee, Nico Lodeiro.
“I thought it was a game that was very rich on soccer, and we enjoyed it a lot,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We’re proud of our boys. Both teams played with a lot of quality.”
That quality was on full display through 90 minutes as the Lions held their own against the team that finished fourth in the Brasileiro Série A last year. For just two weeks of preseason camp, Pareja was impressed with his team's level of play and at the level of fitness his team was already showing so early on in the preseason.
“I was looking for 45 minutes today, just 45 minutes, and we discussed with the group, if we see them fit, then we will continue," Pareja said. "I saw them fresh when we came back from the break. It just left us with good sensations about how we are as a team. That part I liked a lot. We’re still starting, and they have a good understanding of what we want.”
Even with the result being a positive one, all things considered, the cherry on top was the Lions' drive and ability to compete with a team playing in the Copa Libertadores. Not only that, but with the game being broadcast across multiple outlets to an audience in Brazil and beyond, it was an opportunity for Orlando City to show that the team, and MLS as a league, has come a long way in terms of competing with the top teams of the world.
"I'm very proud of the competition that the players showed, because sometimes, we see outside teams look like big giants, and they probably are, but we are as well," Pareja said. "So I'm proud to show that our players have that quality, and we can compete against anyone. That's the sensation that we have today. Because today both teams wanted to win. It was not like a preseason game, and that was great."