Another test awaits for the Lions, their toughest to date.
On Friday, Orlando City will square off against 2019 Supporters’ Shield winners Los Angeles FC in the Quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament.
Now four matches into their run of the competition, the Lions face off against an LAFC side deemed by many the favorites to win this competition. For Oscar Pareja and his staff, however, no task is too tall and his players have expressed that same sentiment.
“For us it has been a good tournament so far, but we’re not slowing down, we're speeding up,” defender Robin Jansson said ahead of Friday’s match. “We’re excited to have this game against LAFC, which is a strong side, but we know that we are strong too so it’s going to be a great game.”
That confidence is something that Pareja has worked to drill into the players since his arrival and it has certainly shown on the field throughout Orlando City’s first four matches. In each contest, the Lions have taken control of the match, dictating the flow of the game and swaying momentum in their favor, battling to four positive results to reach this stage.
Friday’s opponent aims to do much of the same, with an offensive presence that proves difficult to neutralize with options aplenty up top. With the Lions hell bent on having the ball at their feet, their Quarterfinal fixture will certainly be a fight in regards to who controls the tempo of the match.
However, as part of his commitment to elevate the mentality and establish the mindset of a winning Club, Pareja entrusts that his players have the potential to do exactly that.
“Confidence is important for all. Human beings need confidence and we have to be trusted and we need to be optimistic in what we do. One of the characteristics that this team has shown in the last month in the competition, that has been quite high, is that they trust themselves. These guys are creating something within the team that is not necessarily coming from us, but it comes from them,” Pareja said of the confidence within his group.
“It’s fantastic how they’ve started growing with the same objectives and creating a culture within the group. I have to recognize that it is them, just providing to each other that confidence. It’s great to see them grow. It’s a day-by-day thing, it doesn’t stop today, it hasn’t stopped yesterday. You have to re-validate that every single week and every single game and the boys know that.”
That confidence would certainly be re-validated with a win come Friday night, but the Lions are taking the same approach they have to each match thus far in regards to their preparedness and mentality.
“I think we always have our idea of how we want to play and every time we play against a different team, we see some of the things they do well and do bad. In the end, I feel like we are the ones who want to dictate the game and want to play our style,’ midfielder Uri Rosell said.
“With LAFC it’s going to be another challenge, but we are definitely not afraid."