One win away.
The Lions stand the closest to a trophy that they have since their MLS era began over five years ago, playing for the MLS is Back Tournament title on Tuesday against the Portland Timbers.
What’s at stake however is not just a trophy, but a berth in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League - which would be a first for the Lions - and over a $300K share of a $1.1 million prize pool.
While the stakes are certainly much higher, Head Coach Oscar Pareja and his staff are treating this game as they would any other, looking to replicate the successes of their matches prior by carrying over the synergy and momentum within the team into Tuesday’s Final.
“In the last six games as we were getting through the phases and not just that but, remarking the way the players have done it with their style and with their identity that we have developed in a short time. It just tells us that the players have put in a great effort on gelling together and diving into those ideas,” Pareja said of the group’s run.
“For me, it’s easier when I have this group of players willing to do the right things or the things that we are proposing. We’re happy, they deserve all the credit in these things. I say it honestly, obviously the group of coaches and staff have put all the tools there, but at the end the players make the things happen and I’m so positive that they’re ready for this objective.”
What’s not lost on anyone is what this run has meant to an Orlando community that has craved success of this sort for quite some time. Now more than ever, victory by the Club has provided an undeniable sense of relief in these most challenging times.
Lifting a trophy would only heighten that sensation, an opportunity that both the players and staff are relishing in.
“We know that it’s been a very difficult time for a lot of people. If you’re speaking about our fans in particular, knowing that they’ve probably struggled throughout this time, to bring them some joy means everything,” Lions forward Chris Mueller said.
“When you take a step back and you look at what it is as a whole it truly is such a blessing and I’m just so thankful that we have these chances in order to bring people together and to bring so much joy to the community. Hopefully we can cap that off with a nice win.”
In essence, much of what the Lions have accomplished in this last month has provided a solid foundation moving forward both this season and beyond. While there is more at stake this time around than in the last six matches, it remains another opportunity to establish the identity of the Club for the long-term.
“It’s much easier to build when you’re winning. From the beginning to the end, what I have said is this is a project. We would like this project to last, to leave something with the Club that can continue,” Pareja said.
“Winning is the most important thing, I know that, but the way that they’re doing it is what is going to last. It’s what’s going to make Orlando a protagonist and it’s going to be a team who is going to be noticeable in the league. Plus if we can win titles, even better, and that’s an objective that we will fight for."