Five Ways in Which Oscar Pareja Has to Improve Orlando City This Season

By  //  February 5, 2020

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If the 2019 season could be summed up in one word for Orlando City, it would be derisory.

If the 2019 season could be summed up in one word for Orlando City, it would be derisory.

Eleventh in the Eastern Conference and 22nd in the combined league table, the Lions were ultimately thankful that Vancouver and Cincinnati were even worse than them.

Head coach James O’Connor paid the ultimate price with his job, and now-former Dallas and New England chief Oscar Pareja has the unenviable task of trying to rebuild from the ground up.

How will he achieve that? Well, if he follows these five pointers successfully he might just be able to turn Orlando around. They will head into the season as one of the favorites for the wooden spoon in the sportsbooks’ outright MLS 2020 football betting odds, but maybe – just maybe – Pareja and his players can exceed those lowly expectations.

#1 – The Power of Consistency

One of the more curious things about James O’Connor’s reign in charge was just how unwilling he was to field the same starting eleven week in, week out.

Players came into the side and then they were gone again, with only Nani, Lamine Sane, Brian Rowe, and Robin Jansson getting prolonged runs in the team.

Soccer players thrive on confidence, and that typically comes from getting a good run of games and feeling valued by the coach. Take Dom Dwyer, for example. He only started 16 games last season, making eleven appearances from the substitutes’ bench, and that is simply not enough from one of the MLS’ most predatory strikers.

How can you expect your frontman to be sharp in front of goal when he is spending half of his team gathering splinters on the bench?

Hopefully, Pareja learns from those mistakes and fields his strongest available team as often as possible.

#2 – Give Youth a Chance

There are some extremely talented young players at Orlando City.

Jhegson Mendez, Chris Mueller, Benji Michel, and Joao Moutinho – all aged 23 or under –shone at times last season, and the only way their development can continue is if they are given more minutes out on the pitch.

Pareja was famed for his ability to develop young players at FC Dallas, and the hope is that he can repeat the feat with the Lions too.

#3 – Home Advantage

It’s no secret that there’s a significant home-field advantage in the MLS, and the stats confirm as such.

However, Orlando didn’t exactly use the sprawling Exploria Stadium to their benefit last season, winning just 6/17 matches in front of their own supporters. Only Vancouver and Cincinnati were weaker on home soil.

Quite what the secret ingredient is will be Pareja’s problem to solve, but clearly O’Connor’s counter-attacking style was not conducive to dictating the play and dominating matches.

#4 – Blend His Squad…And Fast

Pareja and his recruitment team have been hard at work in the off-season, bringing in no less than nine new players.

Three of those – Jordan Bender, David Loera, and Daryl Dike – will be no more than fringe players, but the other six look far more interesting.

Ruan has made his loan deal of last season permanent, and he will be joined by his Brazilian compatriots Junior Urso and Antonio Carlos, an Argentinian (Rodrigo Schlegel), a Colombian (Andres Perea), and a Peruvian (Pedro Gallese).

That’s a lot of new nationalities to blend into his squad, so Pareja will have to work quickly to ensure they are integrated into the MLS way of life quickly.

#5 – Discover the X-Factor

By his own admission, Sacha Kljestan was way below the expectations expected from him in 2019.

The 34-year-old has been packed off to LA Galaxy, and while Orlando have freed up a significant chunk of their salary budget with that, they have also lost a player with that elusive ‘X-Factor’.

The roster is not blessed with creative stars, Nani aside, and so Pareja has to find somebody, somewhere with the ability to unlock defenses with a killer pass or precision shot at goal.

If the new head coach can achieve these five things, Orlando will surely improve upon their hapless 2019 campaign.