Lodeiro feeling at home in Champions Cup with Orlando City
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Lodeiro feeling at home in Champions Cup with Orlando City

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MIAMI, Florida – After nearly seven seasons with the Seattle Sounders, Nicolas Lodeiro has a new home in Major League Soccer (MLS) with Orlando City SC.

At first glance, it feels very different to see the Uruguayan midfield maestro in different colors, but Orlando City purple seems to suit him nicely as he settles into his new team.

“For me personally, everything is good. I’m happy to be here in my new team and I’m taking full advantage of this time to get to know them better and get better knowledge of what the coaching staff wants from me, so it’s been very positive for me,” said Lodeiro in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com from the team’s preseason training camp in Mexico.

“My adaption has been very positive with the coaching staff, with the head coach, the staff and all my teammates. I’m getting to know everyone off the field as well, which is a new dynamic. On the field, these double sessions are allowing me to adapt and connect much quicker,” added Lodeiro.

Lodeiro also praised the bond felt within the squad, a trait that he noticed in 2023 while in Seattle when the Sounders played against Orlando City.

“It is a good group. It’s something I noticed last season. There was a good connection between the coaching staff and the players. Now that I’m here I realize that it’s all true. My teammates welcomed me with open arms. It is an intense team, a team that plays direct, so I had an idea of what was expecting me when I arrived here,” said Lodeiro.

While Lodeiro will continue to go through the adjustment of being with a new team after so many years in Seattle, one thing that will be familiar to the 34-year-old in 2024 is the Concacaf Champions Cup.

Lodeiro will embark on his third Champions Cup campaign as a player when he takes the field on February 21 in Orlando City’s Round One first leg match against Cavalry of Canada.

“I’m sure [Cavalry] are working hard and thinking about us. For any Concacaf or league opponent, we are working hard, knowing that it will be our first official match of the season and that we need to start in the best way possible. We have some friendlies lined up, which should help us have a better rhythm for the game against Cavalry. Just like any Concacaf game, it will be tough. It is a tough tournament. All of the teams want to win it, so we have to be ready,” said Lodeiro.

If there is anyone who knows what it takes to excel in Champions Cup competition and win the tournament, it is Lodeiro. He made his debut in the 2018 edition, scoring two goals in three games with the Sounders, including a spectacular goal from almost 50 years out against Santa Tecla in the Round of 16.

Four years later in 2022, he was a key member of the Seattle team that summitted the Concacaf mountaintop, scoring five goals and contributing two assists in six games to help Seattle become the first MLS team in 22 years to win the Champions Cup.

Now back in Concacaf competition for the first time since that conquest, Lodeiro is feeling right at home playing in Champions Cup.

“I’m happy to be playing in Champions Cup again. I love playing in these kinds of tournaments, especially when they are big tournaments, continental tournaments, tournaments in which you play against the best teams. I’m just trying to take advantage of this opportunity. I have the experience of playing in it and winning it, so I’m trying to add my part and help this wonderful club have a great tournament. Why not dream of winning it again with this club?” said Lodeiro.

Should Orlando City claim a first Champions Cup, Lodeiro would enter a special fraternity of players to have become a Concacaf champion with two separate teams, joining the likes of Rodolfo Cota (Club Leon, Chivas), Rodolfo Pizarro (Chivas, Monterrey), Luis Rodriguez (Tigres, Monterrey) and others in recent years.

The significance of achieving such a feat is not lost on Lodeiro.

“It would mean a lot. It is a motivation that I have being here in Orlando. It’s motivating to me to play this tournament again and all of the competitions that mark a footballer, so why not try to be a Concacaf champion with another MLS team,” concluded Lodeiro.