After a 2020 season that resembled a sprint, it’s time to get back in shape for a marathon.
Orlando City is in the midst of a grueling but productive week at IMG Academy in Bradenton, building fitness levels for the return of a full 34-game Major League Soccer season. Head Coach Oscar Pareja, who built a similar camp in Cancún, Mexico last year before the COVID-19 pandemic reared its head, is pleased with the progress.
“It has been great,” Pareja said during his weekly press conference. “You have the boys...just thinking about preparation and training and trying to settle the stuff that we need at this time, at this period of the season, which is very important for us.”
With no outside distractions, the Lions have focused intently on their fitness for the long season ahead. Orlando City has trained at least twice daily this week, occasionally mixing in some lifting with Strength and Conditioning Coach Fabian Bazan in between rigorous training sessions.
Pareja noted the presence of his veterans in leading by example. “Really it has been pleasant for me to work with them, seeing how they engage with the game again and their responsibilities and the guys who have already been here for a few years,” he said. “Nani, Mauricio, Mueller, the guys who were based off our last process last year, Antonio, Robin, and all of them have been tremendously responsible with the job.”
The work is not easy. But as seen in 2020, it’s weeks like these that are crucial to winning games once the regular season rolls around.
“It’s normal that after the long period [off] we have some players who are adjusting their bodies,” noted Pareja. “But so far I think the remarkable thing is the willingness from the group to continue with a good job.”
Orlando City opens the 2021 MLS regular season presented by Orlando Health on Saturday, April 17 at Exploria Stadium against Atlanta United at 3 pm EST (Univision/TUDN/Twitter). Fans can sign up to be alerted when single-match tickets become available here.