Game 1: Orlando City (0-0-0) vs. New York Red Bulls (0-0-0)
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Exploria Stadium, Orlando
TV/streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Acción 97.9 FM (Spanish)
Here are six storylines to watch as Orlando City opens its regular season against the New York Red Bulls:
Fresh new faces
Bringing in a total of 10 new signings this past offseason, the Lions enter the 2023 campaign with several fresh faces looking to make their debut in purple on Saturday night.
Highlighting the group is Designated Player Martín Ojeda, who comes to the City Beautiful from Godoy Cruz of Argentina’s Primera División, having scored scoring 35 goals and providing 23 assists across all competitions through 139 appearances in his young career.
Joining Ojeda in the midfield are MLS veteran Felipe Martins, who last featured for Austin FC, and Icelandic midfielder Dagur Dan Thórhallsson, while defenders Luca Petrasso and Rafael Santos will look to feature on the Lions backline.
Petrasso was acquired via trade with Toronto FC, while Santos joins the Club on a two-year deal from Brazilian Série A side Cruzeiro.
Defending the Fortress
The Lions will look to add to an eight-year unbeaten run on opening night, having yet to lose a contest to start a season since joining MLS in 2015.
Entering year nine of their MLS tenure, the Lions have begun every campaign in downtown Orlando, last season starting the campaign with a 2-0 shutout victory over CF Montréal at Exploria Stadium.
The Kids are alright
This offseason saw the Club welcome several young talents, namely 21-year-old forward Ramiro Enrique from Club Atlético Banfield of Argentina’s Primera División, joining the Lions on a three-year contract as a part of Major League Soccer’s U22 Initiative.
In addition, three of the Lions’ four MLS SuperDraft selections enter the year as members of the First Team in Shak Mohammed, Duncan McGuire and Abdi Salim. Mohammed and McGuire were inked to deals prior to being selected via Generation adidas and Major League Soccer, while Salim was signed to a First Team contract on Feb. 14.
Rounding out the group is Homegrown Favian Loyola, who was signed to a First Team deal in December after being inked to a NEXT Pro contract in Aug. 2022.
Clean streak: ‘El Pulpo Edition’
Returning to the Lions on a two-year contract this past offseason, goalkeeper Pedro Gallese enters the season opener looking to maintain an impressive streak, having yet to concede a goal on opening weekend in his Orlando City tenure.
Having joined the Club prior to the start of the 2020 season, Gallese has helped the Lions secure a pair of scoreless draws in 2020 and 2021, respectively, while tallying two saves a year ago in City’s 2-0 win over CF Montréal.
GOAL | Facundo Torres Off the Post and In Against the Red Bulls
Last go around
City last took on the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 13 of last year, taking all three points home from Red Bull Arena with a 1-0 shutout victory on the night.
Facundo Torres netted the eventual game-winner in the 17th minute, with goalkeeper Pedro Gallese having to make just one save to keep the home side off the board.
The Lions are currently riding back-to-back victories in all competitions over this weekend’s opposition, also having defeated the Red Bulls 5-1 in the Semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup en route to their first trophy in the MLS era in Club history.
GOAL | Mauricio Pereyra Scores off the Free Kick
Captain Mauricio Pereyra secured his future in downtown Orlando this offseason, signing a two-year contract to remain with the Lions through 2024. The Club’s all-time assist leader, Pereyra currently sits two matches from reaching 100 in purple in all competitions, entering Saturday’s match with 98 appearances under his belt, tallying 35 assists while netting six finishes in his tenure.