We are now less than a week away from Orlando City returning to action in the MLS is Back Tournament. The Lions take on Inter Miami CF at 8 p.m. on July 8. All of the matches in the tournament will be played in front of no fans, of course.
Orlando has not played since March 7. The Lions took on the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and fell 2-1 thanks to a last-minute Drew Moor header. Orlando is winless under new OCSC Head Coach Oscar Pareja through two matches (0-1-1). However, he will have all of his Designated Players available for the first time.
Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, and Dom Dwyer will all be vital for the Lions during the tournament. Dwyer had an off year in 2019 but a bounce back from the forward is expected. Pereyra should be the player to control the Lions’ midfield, and Nani looks more ready than ever.
Each of these players should play a significant role in Orlando. The players listed below aren’t the “big name” players in the club but are the players to watch for. If Orlando is going to do well, it will need each of these players to step up.
The Octopus will be Orlando’s go-to goalkeeper this season. He has already shown some of what he is capable of in Orlando’s first two matches. While the Lions have never had a poor keeper, Gallese looks to be the best of the bunch. Orlando has a history of making sloppy mistakes in the midfield and defense. Given that the team hasn’t played in so long, expect there to be some more sloppy play, which is true of the entire league, not just Orlando. Knowing this, Gallese could be called into action more often in this tournament.
João Moutinho and Ruan
Orlando has one of the fastest players in the league and one of the top young players in the league at the fullback positions. Ruan and Moutinho showed in 2019 that they can get forward and help out in the attack, and they are fully capable of holding their own in their defensive duties. At 25 and 22 years old, respectively, Ruan and Moutinho still have plenty of room to grow. Much of their success this tournament could rely on their fitness levels, as they will be asked to work up and down the wings.
Méndez is one of the most talented players on this team. His ability on the ball is outstanding. Combine that with his defending talent, and he may be the most important player in the midfield. He and Junior Urso are the only players who aren’t defenders or goalkeepers to play all 180 minutes this season for Orlando. Both of them are likely to continue the trend of playing in each game.
The MLS is Back Tournament will take a huge physical toll on the players. There are so many games played in such a short time that often players don’t have adequate time to rest and recover. So, what does this mean? Player rotation will play a huge factor.
Michel had an excellent rookie season, and he continues to improve. He started in both of the opening games this season, but with Dwyer back, Michel will likely take a bench role. His number could be called often in the next few weeks, and the Lions’ success or failure could be a direct result of the youngster’s impact.