Lions host rest of MLS to Central Florida as league returns from COVID-19 pandemic

By OfficialFloridaFC

Orlando once tried, and failed, to be Florida’s capital city. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Orlando has another opportunity to be the capital city. 

In light of Major League Soccer’s announcement that its MLS is Back Tournament will be held in Central Florida, Orlando City has come to designate The City Beautiful as The Soccer Capital of MLS. 

Orlando City, as tournament hosts, were placed in Group A of the 26-team tournament that will serve as Major League Soccer’s return. The Lions kickoff the MLS is Back play by facing Inter Miami in a derby on July 8. 

The Lions played two different systems before their 2020 season was suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In their opener against Real Salt Lake on Feb. 29, Orlando City started in a 4-2-3-1, controlled possession 50.6 % of the time; but only put two shots on goal — one of which was from 30 yards out and the other from an acute angle. A week later against Colorado, at altitude, Orlando City started in a 3-4-2-1 completed more passes and was more accurate with the ball (79 % against RSL, 81 % against Colorado) and put five shots on frame.

If the opening games are any indicator, new manager Oscar Pareja has a good idea about his starting XI.

Peruvian international Pedro Gallese is the keeper. Robin Jansson and Antônio Carlos are central defenders; João Moutinho, a former No. 1 overall selection in the MLS Superdraft, is on the left either as a fullback or wingback; Junior Urso and Jhegson Méndez are the central midfielders while Academy product Benji Michel slots in an attacking role and Tesho Akindele or Dom Dwyer is the center forward. 

Nani did not play in either match, due to suspension that carried over from the 2019 season; but, the 33-year-old Designated Player averaged a goal or an assist every 103.5 minutes last year. When healthy, Nani is the first outfield name on the team sheet.

Tampa native, and Colombian youth international, Andres Perea has been primed by many outlets to breakout during the MLS is Back Tournament. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder played all 90 minutes in Orlando City’s 2-1 loss to Colorado in March, a shift that included assisting the Lions’ only goal of the season.

Orlando City SC
MLS is Back schedule

Club Date Kickoff
Inter Miami July 8 8 p.m.
New York City FC July 14 10:30 p.m.
Nashville SC July 20 9 a.m.

Orlando City’s path beyond the group stage is manageable. The Lions three MLS is Back opponents feature a pair of expansion sides, Inter Miami and Nashville SC, as well as a familiar opponent in NYCFC. 

Since Orlando City entered MLS in 2015, the Lions have faced NYCFC 14 times and produced a 5-5-4 mark against the Pigeons. Produce a positive result against a NYCFC team that lost both of its league matches this year and Orlando City may be on its way to a berth in the last 16.

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