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Director of Scouting Ricardo Moreira Discusses Orlando City’s Season on Brazilian Podcast

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In an interview with Brazilian podcast The Pitch Invaders, Moreira share insight on some key decisions made in the best year in club history.

Photo courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City SC is still rejoicing on the team’s best Major League Soccer campaign since the club’s inaugural season. Many of the reasons for the Lions’ success in 2020 have already been well-documented but there are always some behind-the-door situations that make sports teams grow and improve.

In an interview with Brazilian podcast The Pitch Invaders, Orlando City Director of Scouting Ricardo Moreira provided some insights on the historical season, the hiring process that selected Oscar Pareja to be the team’s head coach, how the scouting department operates, and what the next steps are for the Lions.

Here are some nuggets from his interview:

On the Change of Culture in 2020:

“When (Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations) Luiz Muzzi and I arrived, the club wasn’t used to succeeding on the field. There was always this feeling that Orlando would concede a goal in the end and lose matches or tie games it should have won and it was considered a normal thing. I remember that in my second game with the club, at the beginning of the 2019 season, we were beating the Chicago Fire on the road but conceded a goal near the end. The next day we heard from highly ranked people in the organization that they already expected that, that it was something normal with Orlando City. That was possibly the biggest change we had this past year — we basically hit the reset button. From a soccer standpoint, most of the first years of the club in MLS were wasted but we really got everyone on board with the new process and that belief took us where we are now. But there’s still a lot of growth we want to achieve and the bar was set higher. We’ll be judged by different standards.”

On the Head Coach Hiring Process:

“It was a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved in the process. We looked at how companies operate when they are hiring their CEOs and tried to mirror it in a certain way. The first step was to identify how the leadership thought the team should play and find coaches that had their teams playing that same way. We were also convinced that it made complete sense for us to have a Latino coach, which the club had never had. Considering Orlando City’s roots, I always felt that was a big disconnection. We were contacted by several agents and coaches. We went to Argentina, Brazil, Spain, and Italy, watched matches and spoke with coaches in these countries. Oscar checked both these boxes and was also a guy with a winning background in the league. We had him and two coaches who were at the Brazilian Serie A in 2020 as our finalists and asked them to make presentations for us. They had to present us their ideas on how the team should play and also evaluate our players and hopefully their ideas would be similar to ours. The process had a lot of human resources on it.”

On the Choice of Pareja:

“Oscar was always on our list, but when we started looking at names we didn’t know what his situation in Mexico would be. I think that the decision we made for the coaching staff couldn’t have been better. Our ideas aligned with Oscar’s and even if the season hadn’t been as successful as it was, I’d still consider him the right choice in light of everything we accomplished in the club’s daily operation. I’d never seen a coaching staff that works as hard as Pareja’s team. They are very meticulous with every single detail of what they do and I think that behavior inspired every other person in the club to do a little bit more in their own area too. It was a driving force in our process of changing the mentality of the club.”

On How the Players Adapted to the New Culture:

“They all had to adjust to the new system but the feedback we got from them couldn’t have been better. When he held the exit meetings after the 2019 season, I remember that several of our players requested to be traded because they didn’t want to stay with the club for a number of different reasons. We managed to convince some of them to stay and when they came back for the 2020 exit interviews they thanked us for having kept them here and said they’re willing to die for the club and the coaching staff. That tells a lot.”

On How the Scouting Department is Structured:

“What I love about our scouting team is that we complement each other really well. We’ll be working with five scouts entering 2021. Two of them are based in South America, one in Europe and two in the United States — one is focused on college and the professional leagues here while the other one will be working with our academy. The market gets more competitive every day and we always want to be one step ahead because that’s the only way to acquire top talent with the resources we have and the restrictions the league operates. And I’m proud that we’ve been getting some signs that we’re doing a good job on that. We were probably the first club to spot Facundo Pellistri, who’s now with Manchester United, when he was playing for the Under-16s, but for economic and even soccer reasons couldn’t bring him here. And also with the Discovery List. This past season we received allocation money from other teams for 11 players we had on our list. That shows someone else is seeing the value in the players we first identified.”

On Getting Value from College Players:

“We’re seeing more and more and more value in college players. If we look at this past season, three of our starters came from the MLS SuperDraft in Joao Moutinho, Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike. But it’s never a certain thing, you have to try and predict how those players will perform against higher-level competition. With Dike, we saw the talent he had during last year’s Final Four and were hoping we would be available for us with the fifth pick. He had a great season and several teams in Europe are already looking at him. He’s a player that has the potential to bring massive revenue to the club if he’s sold at some point. If you think that in January he was playing in college, that’s a huge leap.”

On Nani’s Impact within the Roster:

“We’ve all been learning a lot from him. He tells stories about his career every day and they’re all fascinating and help us understand how he became the player he is. There was some skepticism when we signed him because of his age, but he’s proving everyone wrong. He’s a great reference for our younger players because of his accomplishments but also for the hard work he puts in every day. Every day he shows us he wants the club to go further. On the field, he’s adapted from being the centerpiece of the teams he played [on] before to be one piece in our system pretty well and that shows how humble he is. We were fortunate to be able to get him from Sporting in very favorable conditions as they were going through a very complicated moment.”

On the 2021 Off-Season Moves:

“I spoke with the coach and the soccer executives and it was kind of weird that for the first time since I got here we all agreed we don’t need to do a lot on the transfer market. In past seasons, there was a massive need for change and the idea that [we] needed to sign 10 or 15 players and even that we had a lot of work to do with the academy and Orlando City B. Now we can look at what we have and identify the few areas we need to improve and focus on them. We believe the East is going to be stronger next year and we’ll need to keep up with that.”

On the Next Steps for the Club:

“I believe the next addition to our soccer department will be a sports psychologist. We think we can benefit tremendously from exploring our players’ emotions in a more efficient way. We were very lucky that this season we had 30 players coming from several places around the world, with different personalities and professional backgrounds and who are in distinct stages of their careers and they were all on the same page and heading in the right direction. But that’s not always the case. We want to take more control of that process in order to maximize the benefits of it and leave nothing to luck, so I think a professional could help us a lot with that.”