Orlando City is back in action tomorrow night as the Lions host Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium. The Lions are riding a five match unbeaten streak and will look to continue their good fortune and maintain their second-place spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Injuries have plagued Orlando City, and spoilers, they will loom large in this article. That being said, what do the Lions need to do to defeat Inter Broward, and get another win in this rivalry?
Pedro Gallese will be back in town following the MLS All-Star Game, but don’t expect him to play against Miami. That means that Mason Stajduhar will likely once again get the start, and that is in no way a bad thing. As we noted on The Mane Land PawedCast, none of the goals that have been scored against Orlando City while Stajduhar has been in goal were mistakes on his part. Many were most likely not stoppable. The Orlando City Homegrown has come on big for the Lions, and I expect he will do the same Friday night. Of course a keeper can only do so much on his own, and is dependent on those that are in front of him.
Defensive Midfield Must Step Up
Miami is 4-1-1 in its last six matches. However, the Herons are also 0-4-1 in their last five away matches. However, they have scored six goals in their last two matches, and Orlando City will need to be defensively sound. While the back line is certainly solid with everyone healthy, and Emmanuel Mas, Kyle Smith, and Rodrigo Schlegel as backups, the same cannot be said of the defensive midfield.
Junior Urso and Joey DeZart have started the last two matches, but Orlando City has even turned to Raul Aguilera Jr. to spell those two. While I’m happy for the young man, it isn’t an ideal situation. Stopping Miami’s attack begins in the defensive midfield, and those players will need to step up to help out the back line and keep Miami off the scoreboard.
Find the Final Ball
Orlando City has not scored more than one goal in a match since the 3-2 victory over Atlanta United on July 30. Without a first-choice striker, things have been very tough for the Lions. As of now, Alexandre Pato is training to the side, and Daryl Dike might be getting closer to returning, but even if he does it is unlikely he would start or play too many minutes. They aren’t the only ones in the attack who have a knock. Nani is still dealing with the dreaded lower body injury — and will be returning from the west coast along with Gallese — and Andres Perea is training to the side during practice.
Success or failure will fall to Mauricio Pereyra, who has only recently returned to the lineup, Chris Mueller, Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele, and Silvester van der Water. Mueller has only truly played up to his potential in a handful of matches this season, and Orlando City needs Cash to step it up and be a more significant contributor on offense. Akindele has played as well as a third-choice striker can be expected, and he’ll need to continue doing so.
Inter Miami has been playing better than when the Lions last faced off against their Ft. Lauderdale rivals, and Orlando City may need more than one goal to get a result in this match.
Those are the things I’ll be looking for Friday night at Exploria Stadium. If you are going, I urge you to be smart and wear a mask. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.