Going on the road in Major League Soccer is not easy. Between the long-distance travel and the raucous environments, home teams average a significantly higher points per game mark in MLS than in most leagues around the world.
Orlando City was one of MLS’ best teams away from home in 2020, achieving results in seven of their 10 road contests (three wins, four draws). It’s fitting that their 2021 away journey should start in Kansas City - one of those 2020 victories came at Children’s Mercy Park last September.
“Going on the road is never easy, but we’ve been on the road so many times where we’ve had success,” said Orlando City forward Benji Michel, who scored the winner in last year’s meeting between Orlando and SKC. “so we’re gonna treat this as another game. But we know it’s going to be a difficult game.”
Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja is very familiar with Peter Vermes’ Sporting Kansas City, having faced them 19 times in all competitions since becoming a head coach in 2012. The series is nearly even in MLS, with Vermes holding six wins to Pareja’s five, along with four draws.
“Kansas City is a team who brings a lot of intensity,” said Pareja at his weekly press conference. “It’s a team that has kept the coach and the model of the idea of their game, their patterns too. Obviously there is an evolution in every team every year, but we can tell that Kansas City has been very solid in that aspect...that 4-3-3 is very constant. The movement of their midfielders and forwards especially is very noticeable over the years.”
Sporting Kansas City is coming off a 2-1 away win at New York Red Bulls, with Gadi Kinda and Daniel Salloi picking up the goals. Orlando opened the year with a 0-0 draw against Atlanta United, a game in which the Lions were excellent defensively but struggled to put away promising opportunities on the attacking end.
“This week we’ve been very dialed in on the final third of our game,” said Michel. “We weren’t able to finish our chances last game, but this week we’ve been really dialed in on that, so hopefully we get a lot of chances this game and we can put them away.”
Pareja established last season that Orlando City does not want to go on the road and sit back for one point. These Lions go for all three, home or away.
“I have said this before, we would like to go everywhere and show we have the desire to win three points,” said Pareja, “and be the guys who have initiative and bring the intensity that is the characteristic of Orlando. It will be a good match for sure."