Preview & Notes: Orlando City hosts Inter Miami; Pareja talks OCB and Matheus Aias update


Photo: Courtesy of Orlando City SC

As Orlando City head into their final match of Phase 1 of the MLS restart, head coach Oscar Pareja‘s side will be taking on a worn and tired Inter Miami squad.

The expansion side will be playing its third game in seven days while Orlando has had time to rest, recuperate and prepare for the third bout between the Florida teams. The fact that the Lions have had some time to rest after playing five games in the span of two weeks is an advantage for the home side.

“We don’t focus too much on that, but if we could seek something and face a team that’s worn out, that’s even better,” Pareja told reporters during Thursday’s weekly media call.

“Honestly, we really don’t prepare games for those types of scenarios,” he added. “We hope [Inter Miami] are tired, but we know the attitude that every team brings, they’re going to prepare well because we’ve been in those types of scenarios, playing every three days and having to go out and compete.”

Miami (2-6-2, 8 points) defeated Atlanta United 2-1 on Wednesday while in their prior game playing to a scoreless draw against Nashville, with both games taking place in Fort Lauderdale.

With the extra time to prepare for Saturday’s match, Pareja said on Thursday that the team has been working on specific things in training with the extra days they’ve had to prepare and improve on factors of the game they have yet to have the time to improve.

This will be the third time Orlando and Miami meet, with the latter having won the most recent match, 3-2, on August 22.

Despite just having played them at the beginning of Phase 1, Pareja has seen the weekend’s opponents mature and progress into being a better team.

“Miami has been an evolution,” said Pareja. “The first game that we played against them, starting with the model or the formation, they were playing with five in the back, two players in the middle and three out front. They start changing some players as well.

“I see them in progress and I think we all are in that mode of trying to get better and better. It’s going to be very nice game, interesting game for us important game and against good rival and obviously us thinking and we have to keep the optimism and the idea of just keep handling the tempos of the game.”

Orlando (4-2-4, 16 points) will remain without left back Joao Moutinho, who’s still not yet back to training and currently recovering from a groin injury he suffered on August 29. According to Pareja, it will still take Moutinho “few more weeks to be able fully train.”

OCB under the microscope

Orlando City B, the club’s USL League One side, has been on Oscar Pareja’s radar as of late.

The first-team head coach was in attendance during last week’s OCB match at Osceola County Stadium. For Pareja, that provided an opportunity to scout some of the up-and-coming players out of their own training grounds in Kissimmee.

“To be able to see OCB, it gives us an excellent panoramic view of seeing several young kids that we’re keeping an eye on,” said Pareja. “… such as Michael Halliday, who we recently signed, Thomas Williams, Wilfredo Rivera, Moises Tablante and all the other OCB players who put in an effort and focus on leaving a good impression.”

Pareja said being able to observe some of the club’s younger players who belong to the Orlando City academy and OCB allows him and his training staff to scout potential first team players.

“I like going out and seeing the young players because the purpose here is all about inclusion and to have a hotbed of players who can potentially be moved up to the first team, which is the objective.”

Matheus timeline 

Newly signed forward Matheus Aiás‘ date of arrival continues to be uncertain.

The 23-year-old Brazilian, who signed with Orlando City last month from Watford FC, is still waiting on his visa/passport to clear before he can fly into the United States to eventually join the Lions.

“Depending on the visa that arrives and he’s able to travel,” said Pareja. “As soon as he receives that and then he’s able to fly. At this point, we’re just waiting on that.”

Once Aiás arrives he will have to complete 10 days of quarantine mandated by MLS and also receive two negative COVID-19 tests before joining the team in person for training.

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