We’re now less than a month from the start of the blandly named MLS is Back Tournament. Orlando City is Group A’s seeded team, and we learned before the draw even started that the Lions would play Inter Miami CF as their first opponent.
If you want to hear our thoughts on how odd it was that the draw “randomly” ended up with rivalry matches, make sure to listen to this week’s The Mane Land PawedCast. Orlando City’s other two opponents in the group stage are New York City FC and Nashville SC. Let’s take a look at how the upcoming opponents fared in the first two games of the truncated season.
Inter Miami CF
Inter Miami had the pleasure of facing Carlos Vela and LAFC in the club’s inaugural match. Vela showed why he is the best scorer currently playing in Major League Soccer when he weaved through four Miami players and chipped Luis Robles in the 44th minute to give LAFC the winning goal. LAFC out-shot Miami 21-16 (9-7 on target). Miami held a dismal 39.4% possession, and committed 16 fouls. Victor Ulloa, Alvas Powell, and Juan Agudelo each earned a yellow card in the 1-0 loss for Miami.
In the club’s second match versus D.C. United, Miami seemed to have turned things around. Rodolfo Pizarro scored Inter Miami’s first-ever goal in only the second minute of play to put Miami up 1-0. It didn’t last, and indeed got even worse when Román Torres was given a straight red for a handball in the 54th minute. Play had continued while the handball was being review and Lewis Morgan had seemingly given Miami a two-goal lead, but when referee Rubiel Vazquez looked at the review Morgan’s goal was disallowed and Torres was sent off. D.C. United went on to score two goals against Miami’s 10-man side, winning 2-1.
Between Vela and a red card, Inter Miami didn’t have a great two games, but they didn’t play poorly either. I think it will be an interesting first tournament match and first-ever match-up between the two Florida-based clubs.
New York City FC
NYCFC had about as tough a start to the season as one can imagine, losing 1-0 to the Columbus Crew. It was tough because in the third minute Maxime Chanot was sent off with a straight red for denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity. The foul changed the entire landscape of the match, and in the 56th minute Lucas Zelarayan made a little space for himself and put the ball in the upper left corner to give Columbus the winning goal. Even down a man, NYCFC managed seven shots, three of which were on goal. The Pigeons only managed 37.7% possession, which is not surprising playing with 10 men most of the match. NYCFC came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation, but had to abandon it when Chanot went off.
In NYCFC’s second match, the club came out in the same 4-1-4-1 formation, but with adjustments as Chanot was unavailable. Unfortunately for the Pigeons, the results were the same as NYCFC lost 1-0 to Toronto FC. The club managed 11 shots, with three shots on goal, and a much improved 51.8% time of possession. NYCFC did commit 16 fouls with Alexander Ring, James Sands, and Keaton Parks each earning a yellow card.
It’s difficult to judge NYCFC’s performance in the first two matches, given that Chanot was sent off so early against Columbus, and was unavailable against a good Toronto FC club. I still expect this to be the most difficult match for Orlando, though the teams know each other well.
Nashville didn’t have the easiest start to its inaugural season as the expansion side had to take on Atlanta United. It didn’t take long for Atlanta to get on the board, with Ezequiel Barco scoring in the ninth minute to put the visitors up 1-0. Nashville was able to equalize off a free kick in the 28th minute when defender Walker Zimmerman headed the ball to himself and put his shot past Brad Guzan. It was the first and only goal so far for the new MLS club.
Unfortunately for Nashville, Emerson Hyndman put Atlanta back up for good with his goal in the 37th minute. Nashville utilized a 4-2-3-1 formation against Atlanta with 44.6% of the possession, 14 shots, and four shots on goal. Joe Willis received Nashville’s only yellow card of the match late in second-half stoppage time.
In the second match, Nashville was unable to score, falling to the Portland Timbers. The club deployed the same 4-2-3-1, with the same starting lineup. Once again, Nashville found itself behind early when Diego Valeri scored off a one-touch shot in the box to put the Timbers ahead for good, 1-0. Nashville again had 14 shots, four shots on goal, and managed to maintain 52.1% possession. The club committed 13 fouls, with Daniel Lovitz getting the only yellow in the 29th minute.
Nashville had a rough go to start the season given the teams they had to play, but I still expect that the Lions have a good chance to win this match.
Which club is going to present the greatest challenge in the group stage for Orlando City? Vote in the poll, and let us know in the comments below.
Which club will be Orlando’s toughest match in Group A?
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Inter Miami CF
New York City FC