Welcome to your match thread for a Friday night Tropic Thunder match-up between Orlando City (9-4-7, 34 points) and the team’s Publix Enemies, Inter Miami CF (6-9-4, 22 points), at Exploria Stadium (8:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes). It’s the third of the three scheduled meetings this season and the second of two in Orlando.
Orlando City enters on the heels of a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire this past Saturday night, extending the club’s current unbeaten run to five matches (2-0-3). Inter Miami is coming off back-to-back wins after the weekend’s 3-1 home win over Toronto.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
Orlando City is 3-2-1 in this fledgling series (1-0-1 at home) and every match so far has been decided by a single goal (or fewer, in the case of the draw). The last time the teams played, Orlando and Miami battled to a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium on Aug. 4. Antonio Carlos scored in first-half stoppage time but was knocked into concussion protocol on the play by Kelvin Leerdam. Kieran Gibbs equalized in the 66th minute on a header in front of a less-than-attentive Ruan. Tesho Akindele had a goal called back after video review for being offside and the teams split the points.
Earlier this season, the Lions came from behind in Fort Lauderdale to win 2-1 on a pair of brilliant goals by Chris Mueller and Nani on June 25.
In the final meeting of last year, the Lions saw their 12-match unbeaten streak end on Oct. 24, 2020 in a 2-1 road loss in Fort Lauderdale. Miami defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s header in the 89th minute was the difference after a Daryl Dike goal and an own goal off Robin Jansson saw the game tied up at halftime.
The teams last met in Orlando on Sept. 12 of 2020 with Orlando battling to a 2-1 win on Mauricio Pereyra’s goal. The Lions had taken the lead on an own goal by Andres Reyes. Former Lion Brek Shea tied things up in the 65th before Pereyra answered with a nice goal off the left post in the 69th.
The first meeting in Fort Lauderdale opened Phase 1 of Major League Soccer’s return to regular-season play after the MLS is Back Tournament. That one was an uncharacteristically sloppy match for the Lions, who fell 3-2 in Inter Miami’s first-ever home match. It was Miami’s first franchise win after an 0-5-0 start. Orlando trailed by more than one goal for the first time all season in that match. Dike and Nani provided the offense for Orlando but Julian Carranza’s brace and Rodolfo Pizarro’s insurance goal were enough to lift the Herons.
The first Tropic Thunder match went Orlando City’s way, with Nani scoring late to lift the Lions to a 2-1 win over the upstarts from South Florida in the opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament. Despite it being a tournament match, it was also a league game. Juan Agudelo opened the scoring for the Herons in the 47th minute, but Mueller equalized in the 70th, setting the stage for Nani’s 97th-minute winner. That late goal propelled the Lions on a run to the tournament final and sparked its own t-shirt.
The Lions are 6-1-3 at home in 2021 while Miami is 2-4-2 away from home. The Herons are 0-4-1 in their last five away from DRV PNK Stadium, but they’ve scored six goals in their previous two matches, so they’re in their best offensive form of the season.
It’s a rivalry game, so anything can happen. History suggests it’ll be tight.
The Lions will need to shut down Gonzalo Higuain, Robbie Robinson, and — if he plays — Rodolfo Pizarro, who was out in California with Nani and Pedro Gallese for the MLS All-Star festivities.
The younger Higuain, 33, has a goal against Orlando this season and has scored eight of his team’s 21 goals on the season. Robinson has four goals and Pizarro has three. Higuain also has a team-high five assists this season.
“The boys have good energy preparing for the derby,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “We have played Miami already twice this year and they have improved results [recently]. They have some changes that we can see in the way they’re playing. We have the opportunity now to fight for those three points that aside from it being a derby, are important for our position in the standings. That’s what we’re looking forward to now — trying to get a good game and get those points.”
The Lions will be without Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell, and Alexandre Pato due to lower body injuries and a number of players are questionable with that same exact ailment, including Gallese, David Loera, Nani, Pereyra, and Andres Perea. Gallese and Nani played in Wednesday night’s MLS All-Star Game in Los Angeles, so even if they’re available it would be best to assume that at best they’ll start the match on the bench. Daryl Dike still doesn’t appear on the availability report, so the best advice I have for you is to ask your Magic 8-Ball if he’ll be in uniform.
Miami will be without Joevin Jones, Ryan Shawcross, Ventura Alvarado, and Ian Fray, who are all suffering from “injury,” because MLS continues to let teams be absolutely ridiculous in their injury reports and gives zero effs about anyone having any idea about what’s going on. Gregore is out with a yellow card suspension. Pizarro is in the same boat as Nani and Gallese in terms of availability.
Mandatory Match Content
Here’s your mandatory match content for this one:
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and predictions for tonight.
- Dave Rohe’s got his three keys to victory for Orlando City.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Chris Mueller, Joey DeZart, Junior Urso, Benji Michel.
Forwards: Tesho Akindele, Silvester van der Water.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Kyle Smith, Emmanuel Mas, Rodrigo Schlegel, Raul Aguilera Jr., David Loera, Alexander Alvarado, Nani, Daryl Dike.
Inter Miami (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Nick Marsman.
Defenders: Christian Makoun, Nicolas Figal, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Wingbacks/Midfielders: Kieran Gibbs, Victor Ulloa, Blaise Matuidi, Lewis Morgan.
Attacking Midfielders: Robbie Robinson, Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro.
Bench: John McCarthy, Kelvin Leerdam, Sami Guediri, Brek Shea, Indiana Vassilev, Federico Higuain, Jay Chapman, Julian Carranza.
Ref: Ismael Elfath.
AR1: Jose da Silva.
AR2: Brian Poeschel.
4th: Alex Chilowicz.
VAR: Guido Gonzales Jr.
AVAR: Jeff Muschik.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on WatchESPN.
Enjoy the game. Go City!