Lions host Liga MX side Tigres on Wednesday

By Official Florida FC

A MLS side beating Mexican opponents in the CONCACAF Champions League may not be the stop-the-presses event it once was. But, everything in the continental tournament is a new experience for Orlando City.

The Lions will have another first on Wednesday night when they host Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16.

It will mark the second time a continental competition has been played in Florida. And, unlike the 2020 tournament that was played in Orlando because of the Covid-19 pandemic and did not feature Orlando City, a Florida-based club will be on the pitch.

Exploria Stadium is home of Orlando City Soccer Club. (Courtesy: Official Florida FC)

As for the task at hand, Orlando City has everything in front of them. The Lions produced a scoreless draw in Monterrey last week. From a Tigres perspective, it was an inauspicious way to celebrate the club’s 63rd anniversary.

The Lions defended in packs and were committed to getting behind the ball when not in possession. In the final 15 minutes in Mexico, Orlando City devoted as many as nine players behind the ball and did not leave gaps between the midfield and defense for the hosts to exploit.

The question is whether they can produce another high-intensity match after traveling more than 3,300 miles over the last week.

Orlando drew 1-1 to D.C. United on Saturday night. Only one person who started in Mexico went the full 90 minutes against D.C. United, center back Rodrigo Schlegel.

Manager Oscar Pareja has played with four in the back and a back three at times this season. The latter was used at the start of Wednesday’s match against Tigres and the hosts were not able to create much.

Then again, that may be a factor of Orlando City’s organization and the caliber of Tigres’ finishing.

Tigres may be third in the Clausura, but they have scored just three goals in their last six matches. They lost 2-0 to Club America on Saturday with only three shots on goal. Midfielder Juan Pablo Vigón should have scored in the 14th minute, but his effort was cleared off the line.

Considering the way both clubs have started the season – Orlando City has only scored one goal from open play in four matches – if either of them can get a second goal, they may be well on their way to the quarterfinals.