Sun, 29 Mar 2020

Pareja, Orlando City face Real Salt Lake

Field Level Media
29 Feb 2020, 10:19 GMT+10

There will be a feeling of optimism around Exploria Stadium on Saturday, when Orlando City hosts Real Salt Lake in the 2020 season opener for both clubs.

Manager Oscar Pareja begins his first season on the touch line for the Lions and brings seven seasons of managerial experience with FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids. He will aim to guide the Lions back to the playoffs after an 11th-place finish in the East last season.

Despite finishing with just 37 points last season, the Lions return plenty of star power with Dom Dwyer, Nani and Tesho Akindele, and also have many new faces.

Pedro Gallese will start in net, Antonio Carlos from Palmeiras and Racing Guard academy product Rodrigo Schlegel slide into backline and Junior Urso and Atletico Nacional product Andres Perea slide into the midfield.

"I'm very anxious. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time since I got the news that I was coming to Orlando," Urso said. "I really hope we are able to get three points at the first game."

Following a 53-point season in 2019 in which Real Salt Lake finished third in a crowded Western Conference, manager Freddy Juarez returns -- sans interim tag -- with plenty of attacking power including Albert Rusnak, Corey Baird, Damir Kreilach and Jeizon Ramirez.

Goalkeeper Zac MacMath, a former first-round pick, replaces Nick Rimando.

The club also made a big splash by signing American-born forward Giuseppe Rossi.

Rossi, an Italy international, has played all over Europe, including with Manchester United, Newcastle United, Parma, Fiorentina, Genoa, Villarreal, Levante and Celta Vigo.

The 33-year-old has scored 128 goals in 336 matches across all competitions, and will bolster an already potent attack.

"It feels great now to be a part of Real Salt Lake," Rossi said in a statement. "I can't wait to step on the pitch and help RSL achieve all the goals we've set for this year. For me, MLS has been growing every year and produced an exciting product. I'm lucky enough to have RSL be my first contact in the league during this process."

Saturday marks the second time these two clubs will battle in the season opener. They last met in 2016 at Camping World Stadium and played to a 2-2 draw.

--Field Level Media

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