City of Orlando split his first two preseason games against MLS’s top Eastern Conference competition and head coach Oscar Pareja got to see some of his new and younger players. The academy kids and newcomers stepped onto the pitch and made their first impressions last week in the 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union in Monday’s and Thursday’s 3-2 loss to New York City FC.
“The main focus of the last two games was to see more young people,” Pareja told reporters on Friday at a virtual press conference via Zoom. “It allowed us to have more time for the guys who come from the academy in the preseason and especially to get more repetitions. At the same time, try to see the new ones.
One of those newcomers, veteran Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato, will be an important part of the squad in 2021. Pato arrived last week, went through his quarantine period and, after just a few days with the club, has saw his first action as a Lion in the second half of the NYCFC melee.
Although he barely arrived, Pato left an impression on his new coach.
“It was great, just with (a few) days with the team,” said Pareja. “His attitude was very good to great, professional, and (he) asked us to get involved in the game. We felt it was a good time to give him a few minutes in the second half. He came in and not only played well, but scored a goal. So that made us even more optimistic about what he can bring to the team. It’s a good start. Hopefully in the next few weeks we can improve him on his physical form and adapt him to our model of play. And that way he can be even more important.
New players Pareja is watching closely include Alexander Alvarado, who scored a goal in the win over Philadelphia, and Matheus Aias, who both arrived last year but have yet to see many minutes.
Overall, Pareja seems happy with what he has seen so far, especially when it comes to securing competition minutes for players he has yet to assess ahead of the season. As the 2021 MLS season draws closer, he will need to start making decisions on his preferred starting lineup and rotation, but for now things seem to be going well at the start of the preseason.
“The game (on Thursday) was very difficult for both teams,” said Pareja. “It was very similar to the reality of the competition. So we’re good so far, (in) the preseason the last few weeks and the last two games.
Other notes from Friday’s press conference:
- Ruan returned from Brazil after the death of his mother and is following quarantine protocols.
- Pareja said that Joao Moutinho’s recovery is going as planned and that he has recently made great strides forward.
- Orlando is still waiting for some documents to arrive at the embassy of Silvester van der Water to be able to join the team.
- Pareja is not worried about van der Water’s fitness as he had played in the Netherlands and he expects the Dutch winger to adapt quickly.
- He didn’t mention any names, but Pareja said a few players had a few small injuries that kept them from training a bit, but just normal pre-season stuff.
- Commenting on Daryl Dike’s form in England on loan with Barnsley, Pareja said: “He adapted immediately and scored five goals in 11 games and in the middle of the competition the pressure is enormous for Daryl. So we are very happy for him.
- Pareja said Dike’s England team gave him a taste of a different game mode. “He went to a team that has a different style. The game is more direct. The way he has to deal with central defenders all the time and the physical nature of the league and the nature of their game in England, I think it will make him even richer on the experiences we need him to get there. -low.
- Regarding the rumors of interest in Dike’s services overseas, Pareja said, “We knew it was going to happen, but at this point, we just appreciate seeing another young American succeed in Europe, in a nature. very competitive. Daryl’s comeback is on the schedule and we’ll see what happens from now on and we’ll wait. We will prepare without him but also but (we wait) also the days when he should be there with the group.
- Of Alvarado, Pareja said: “Alex has done a good job in the last two weeks of the preseason trying to get a lot closer to his teammates and playing a lot more in the last two games … Alex is someone who is another project. (We are trying) to develop it because he is young. He is international but he is very young.
- Speaking of Benji Michel and Andres Perea with the US U-23s, Pareja said: “I am delighted to see the boys participate in the U-23 tournament. Excited to see the representation of Orlando City and these two players who deserve it get the call. And now we see Benji in the lineup and Andres come into the game in important minutes (in) possibly the most important game for them of the tournament – the first and against their direct competitor for that place towards qualifying. So we’re happy, proud of them and to see so much success from the young Orlando City players (a) made our minds very happy, very optimistic about the future here.