Oscar Pareja believes both Orlando City and Charlotte FC will enjoy a “new experience” on Saturday – and the expansion side will hope that involves an away win.
Orlando and Charlotte are meeting for the first time in Florida, with the visitors still awaiting a breakthrough victory on the road.
But Charlotte collected their first away point last time out against the Colorado Rapids, and Orlando coach Pareja has seen enough to know his side – beaten 3-0 by the New York Red Bulls last week – will be made to work.
“Charlotte is a new franchise that we have never played before, but in this league we already know each other enough and we have seen them play already,” Pareja said.
“This game will certainly be a new experience for both.
“We’re going with the urgency that we have right now from not getting the three points in the last game and now just having the chance to be back on the road to winning.
“We just have to have a good series of games in which we reach our objectives. We’re ready, the boys are working, and we’re trying to learn from the last game but also just to be prepared for this one.”
Even if Charlotte have not been able to replicate their home form on their travels, coach Miguel Ramirez has been proud of their competitive nature in every match.
Of the Rapids draw, he said: “We are happy with the clean sheet and to get a point, but we want to win. We want to win.
“That competitive nature is what allows us to compete despite being what we are, being a smaller team that is just starting out and with all the challenges that we are having.
“But we always compete. That mentality from the players and the coaching staff is what is helping us earn points.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Orlando City – Robin Jansson
Over Orlando’s past four league games, they have conceded seven goals and still kept two clean sheets. There is no consistency at all in their defensive performances, and that has to change if this is to be a successful season. Jansson, once capped by Sweden, should have the quality to lay down a marker at the back.
Charlotte FC – Christian Ortiz
Goals have been hard to come by away from home for Charlotte this season, but not for Ortiz in recent weeks. Of the three goals the team have scored in their past three matches in all competitions – all on the road – he has netted two of them from just three shots. He needs to be similarly effective again on Saturday.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Orlando City have won only five of their 17 all-time matches against expansion sides (D5 L7), including losing their past two, a 2-1 defeat to Miami and a 3-2 defeat to Nashville, both in 2020.
– Orlando City’s 3-0 loss to the Red Bulls on Sunday was their third defeat in their past four home matches (W1). The Lions had lost only three of their previous 28 home regular season games dating back to the start of the 2020 season (W15 D10).
– Charlotte FC earned their first away point in MLS on Saturday with a scoreless draw at Colorado. After losing their first three matches, Charlotte have just two defeats in their past six league games (W3 D1).
– The 3-0 defeat to the Red Bulls on Sunday marked just the third time Orlando City failed to score in their past 33 home matches dating back to August 2020. The Lions last went consecutive home games without scoring in their last two home matches of the 2017 season.
– Charlotte have been the second most accurate shooting team in MLS this season, hitting 41.2 per cent of their shots on target. Charlotte have hit the target with 40.5 percent of their shots from outside the box, the best in the league and more than 15 per cent above the league average of 25.3 percent.