Orlando City heads back to work this Saturday against Inter Miami CF in Fort Lauderdale. The Lions are coming off a successful run to the final in the MLS is Back Tournament, and Miami is coming off a long break after crashing out of the group stage.
Of course, outside the bubble things might be different. Miami, still looking for its first win, has added some players, such as Blaise Matuidi. Meanwhile, Orlando City is looking to prove that the tournament wasn’t an anomaly and that this club means business. Here are three things to look for this Saturday.
Orlando City last played against the Portland Timbers on Aug. 11. That means it will have only been 11 days since the Lions took to the field at full match pace. Miami, on the other hand, last played on July 20, making it 33 days since the club played a match. Given the start/stop nature of MLS play in 2020, the Lions definitely have the advantage here. Eleven days is plenty of time to rest, plan for another match, and stay 90-minute fit. While Miami will have also had plenty of time to rest and plan, having that much time off between matches can be a detriment when it comes time to actually kick the ball. While the recent additions might be good for Miami, it also means that these players haven’t had time to work together in a real match environment, and a learning curve is to be expected.
As of the writing of this piece, the Orlando City front office has not made any announcements regarding any new players. As I’ve stated on The Mane Land PawedCast and on social media, I don’t expect a big-time signing at this point. That means no multi-million dollar striker is coming in time to take on Miami. As such, Orlando City will once again need the goals to come by committee. Hopefully, Chris Mueller will find his early tournament form and Nani will continue his moments of magic. Óscar Pareja’s style of play doesn’t absolutely require an up top striker to get 20 goals. He does require his strikers to be able to draw defenders to allow the wingers to score, and that is where Tesho Akindele can do a better job of helping. Finally, the Lions must take advantage of the shots on goal they have. Converting those chances may mean the difference between winning and losing, not just in this match but going forward.
The Midfield Match-up
As I mentioned above, Inter Miami added Matuidi to a midfield that already has Lee Nguyen, Wil Trapp, and Rodolfo Pizarro. That’s not a shabby group of players, and Orlando City will need to be able to hold its own against that group if the Lions are going to win this match. Orlando City’s midfield played well in the tournament but could still be better. Mauricio Pereyra was an obvious bright spot for Orlando City, and as the man that pulls the strings for the offense, his performance will need to be in line with his consistently solid run of form. Pereyra gets the Lions out of trouble with his ability to maintain and regain possession. Uri Rosell quietly had a very productive tournament and is a big part of why Orlando City only gave up six goals all tournament. Sebas Méndez and Júnior Urso will need to continue their link-up play, as well. Orlando City likes to possess the ball with a purpose, but Miami will look to disrupt that. The winner of that match-up could determine the winner of the match.
There you have it. Let me know what else you think is important heading into Orlando City’s first match outside the bubble.