Orlando City 2024 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

  • Orlando finished in second place in the Eastern Conference last season
  • The club signed head coach Oscar Pareja to a new contract
  • Two key players have departed, but Orlando has brought in adequate replacements

Facundo Torres hopes for silverware with the Lions in 2024
Facundo Torres hopes for silverware with the Lions in 2024 / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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Orlando City set plenty of club records last season with head coach Oscar Pareja and star player Facundo Torres leading the way, and the Eastern Conference club will be eager to do more of the same in 2024.

The Lions soared to new heights in 2023, setting new records for points (63), wins (18) and goals scored (55) while achieving a second place finish in the East, their highest-ever finish since joining as an expansion side in 2015.

The Lions haven't been major players in the winter transfer window, and that's because they haven't really needed to. The Orlando front office has kept together the core of the squad that bowed out of MLS Cup playoffs in the conference semifinals to eventual winners Columbus Crew, while also signing Pareja to a new contract.

Here's everything you need to know about Orlando City ahead of the 2024 MLS season.


How did Orlando City perform in 2023?

  • Regular season: second in Eastern Conference
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference semifinals
  • US Open Cup: Round-of-32

Orlando City transfer activity

Nicolás Lodeiro
Lodeiro is set to replace Mauricio Pereyra / Bob Drebin/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Transfers In

Player

Former Club

Fee

Nicolas Lodeiro

Seattle Sounders

Free transfer

Ivan Angulo

Palmeiras

Loan made permanent - $1.5m

Junior Urso

Coritiba

Free transfer

Transfers out

Player

Club Joined

Fee

Duncan McGuire

Blackburn Rovers

Loan

Gaston Gonzalez

Nacional

Loan

Luca Petrasso

Triestina

Loan

Antonio Carlos

Fluminense

$480k

Mauricio Pereyra

Nacional

Free transfer


Oscar Pareja: Tactics and style of play

Pareja knows what he wants
Pareja knows what he wants / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando boss Pareja rarely strayed from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, which brought great stability on both ends of the pitch as Orlando remained in the top fix for goals scored and the top four for goals conceded.

Pareja's side didn't look to dominate possession like other teams, as they averaged a respectable 50.3% possession (11th-highest in MLS) during the regular season, looking to soak up pressure and hit teams on the counter. The Lions were able to perfect this to a tee with the pace the likes of Torres, Martin Ojeda and Ivan Angulo have available.

Pareja's system calls for the wide player getting in on the goalscoring action, with each playing their part in 2023 as the three players previously listed combined for 26 goals. Anther key cog in the attack was Mauricio Pereyra, who departed the team to sign for boyhood club Nacional in Uruguay. Orlando moved to bring in Seattle Sounders legend Nicolas Lodeiro, who notched 10 assists last term, to replace Pereyra as the team's new creative outlet.

With Lodeiro running the show in the final third, Cesar Araujo is set to defend the backline alongside Wilder Cartagena, who was signed permanently from Al-Ittihad Kalba SC this winter after spending a little more than one season on loan with the Lions. The two formed a formidable partnership in the defensive midfield last term, and they're set to continue their dominant ways in 2024.

Orlando was able to concede just 39 goals last term thanks to the standout performances from goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, center-backs Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel and full-backs Rafael Santos and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Striker Duncan McGurie was also key to Orlando's success, bagging 13 goals in his rookie season in MLS. His goalscoring prowess didn't go unnoticed, and EFL Championship side Blackburn Rovers have acted quickly to sign him on loan with an option to buy after the deal nearly fell through last week. But it's been reported that the deal is close to being called off yet again, while Orlando have turned their heads to sign veteran striker Luis Muriel from Serie A side Atalanta as a replacement.

Orlando City predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Gallese; Dagur Dan, Schlegel, Jansson, Santos; Araujo, Cartagena; Torres, Lodeiro, Angulo, Muriel.


Who is Orlando City's best player?

Facundo Torres

Facundo Torres continues to improve
Facundo Torres continues to improve / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Uruguay international continues to prove his worth season after season, as he set a new career-high in goals scored in 2023 with 14 that led the Lions in scoring. Torres is Orlando's club-record signing having joined in 2022 for a reported fee of $9m, and he's been worth every penny since for the Eastern Conference side.

His goal tally jumped up five from the previous season, as he showed he can be reliable goal outlet while allowing the likes of Lodeiro and Cesar Araujo to pull the strings from the midfield. His exceptional quality on the ball is a nightmare for opposing teams, and when he combines with his as equally-talented forward teammates, he's one of the best wide players the league has to offer.


Orlando City 2024 season prediction

Since Orlando were able to retain most of the key members of their squad and brought in replacements for those that departed, there's no reason for them to not aim for another top-four finish in 2024.

It's safe to say that Orlando are a lock to qualify for the playoffs. But that won't be their primary goal, and it shouldn't be. The Lions should aim to reach the Eastern Conference final with the talented and experienced squad they've assembled. As long as Torres and co. are firing and they can avoid any long-term injuries to the midfield, you can expect to see a high-flying Orlando side in 2024 that's competitive on all fronts.

Will Orlando City qualify for MLS Cup Playoffs? Yes


READ 90MIN'S SEASON PREVIEWS FOR MLS TEAMS AHEAD OF THE 2024 SEASON

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