It hasn’t been a bad start to the season for Orlando City by any means. Down several key players, the Lions have grinded out two hard-fought points against strong teams and have controlled long stretches of games.
Defensively, they’ve been spectacular, holding their opponents to just one goal and few chances across their first 180 minutes. But the team that ranked fifth in MLS in goals last year has scored just once in their first two games.
“We have had the chances to put the ball in the back of the net and get the three points, that’s obviously what you play for. We’re missing that final touch,” said Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja on Thursday. “I can’t lie to you, it’s a concern we carry when we’re not scoring the options that we’ve created and the volume that we’ve had the last games.
“But at the same time I have a lot of confidence in the team. The good news is that we’re creating them, we are having that protagonism that we always preach about, asking the players to train it and try to be more polished in that area...Hopefully we can open that side of our game as soon as possible.”
Reinforcements should be coming. Attacking midfielder Mauricio Pereyra, a Designated Player widely regarded as one of the best creative playmakers in MLS, is available for selection this weekend against FC Cincinnati. Pereyra missed the first two games of the 2021 season through suspension.
“Mauricio is a very important player for our roster,” said Pareja. “We’re delighted to see him training again, and surely he will improve our attack and the way we play...the guys who have done the job have done very well. But the inclusion of Mauricio just creates different things for us, and I’m very happy to see that.”
Cincinnati is coming off a difficult 5-0 loss at NYCFC last weekend in which they conceded four times in the second half. But Pareja is not overlooking the Ohio side, noting that they’ll be hungry to prove themselves.
“It was a rough game for them,” he said, “but we still expect a game that is going to be full of energy from a team that wants to bounce back with professional players that would like to perform well and get points here.”
Orlando City and FC Cincinnati are set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET at Exploria Stadium on Saturday night. The match, presented by Janney Roofing, will be broadcast locally on FOX35 PLUS and streamed on the all-new LionNation TV free of charge.