Orlando City concluded its weeklong camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton with a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union in the Lions’ first preseason match of 2021. The match took place in Clearwater at Joe DiMaggio Field.
Alexander Alvarado scored the only goal in the victory over the defending Supporters Shield winners and Orlando kept a clean sheet, which was a problem at times last season despite the team’s strong defensive record.
“I loved the energy and the willingness to work,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The participation of the youngsters was a highlight.”
The gaffer also said he was seeing a continuation of the ethics and the culture he and his staff are trying to build within the team.
While a preseason win in the opener, regardless of the opposition, is not necessarily an indicator of what the upcoming season might have in store, it’s always better to get a result than to not. Both teams used a lot of players in the preseason opener, including a lot of academy kids. Orlando City didn’t announce a starting XI but the Union started a fairly strong lineup:
The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first half. Shortly after the restart, Alvarado scored the game’s only goal, cutting in from the left and finishing past former Lion Joe Bendik with a clinical right-footed shot.
“It was nice to be out on the pitch with the boys,” said goalkeeper Brandon Austin, who saw his first minutes with Orlando City. “First one of the season. It’s always good to get out there against some opposition. It was a good win in the end for the boys. It was a good day.”
Austin played half the match for Orlando, helping the Lions get the shutout. The goalkeeper — on loan from Tottenham — said his defense played well and limited Philadelphia’s scoring chances, which helped lead to the team keeping a clean sheet.
“From my own personal performance, and for the team as well, it’s good to start that from the beginning and make those good habits,” Austin said.
The goal was an encouraging sign from Alvarado. The young winger showed signs of his talent in his brief stints a year ago and he will likely play a much bigger role in 2021. Scoring a goal in the team’s first preseason game of the year is a good way to kick things off.
The Lions will be back in action on Thursday when they take on a familiar preseason opponent in the form of New York City FC.