Monday marked the start of voluntary training for Orlando City. The official start to preseason is March 8, with the 2021 MLS season opener on April 17. Orlando City had the majority of players report. After a historic 2020 season, the Lions are aiming even higher this season.
“I think it’s great you see almost everybody here for the voluntary training,” said midfielder Uri Rosell. “It means a lot. I think everybody is really excited to get going and fit as quickly as they can. So, really excited to start with the guys, see them again, and roll the ball.”
The Lions have much to be excited about heading into camp. Last year was the most hectic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Lions also saw the most success in their MLS history. 2020 was the first time in franchise history that Orlando City made the MLS playoffs.
Orlando finished the season fourth in the Eastern Conference with 41 points, 11 wins, and 40 goals. All of that came in just 23 games played. In previous seasons, Orlando has had around the same numbers, sometimes smaller numbers, with an extra 11 games played. The Lions also advanced to the finals of the MLS is Back Tournament.
One area that Orlando is setting high standards is the U.S. Open Cup. The tournament will look different in 2021. It was canceled last season, but this year it will go ahead. However, only 24 teams will participate in five rounds. This could take the feeling of the U.S. Open Cup out of it, as typically over 100 teams compete. Eight MLS teams that have not yet been determined will take part. But the Lions are hoping to have the chance to play in it and aim to lift the cup.
“We want to compete as much as we can within the competitions,” Rosell said. “We have the possibility to go to play in the U.S. [Open] Cup if we do well. So, I think we are really excited to get going again. And hopefully, we can win all the trophies that we have in front of us.”
Just winning the Open Cup should not be enough after a strong 2020. Rosell said the goal is to win all the trophies this season. While that task will undoubtedly be challenging, the Lions showed last season that they can compete with any team in the league.
Orlando also looked to have gotten stronger this season. The Lions added winger Silvester van de Water and forward Alexandre Pato. The duo joins an already strong attacking front that includes Nani, Chris Mueller, Daryl Dike, and Benji Michel. Both Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson will be back to add some vital consistency to the best center back pairing Orlando has ever had. The chemistry will continue to grow between Carlos and Jansson, and the Lions could see an even better year defensively as well.
Expectations were low before the 2020 season, and the team just making the playoffs is seen as an accomplishment. But the Lions themselves are setting higher standards, and nothing less than silverware will mark 2021 as a success.