Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night Tropic Thunder match-up between Orlando City (8-4-4, 28 points) and the team’s Publix Enemies, Inter Miami CF (3-8-3, 12 points), at Exploria Stadium (8 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). It’s the second of three scheduled meetings this season and the first of two in Orlando. The Herons will return to Exploria Stadium on Aug. 27.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
Orlando City is 3-2-0 in this fledgling series (1-0-0 at home) and every match so far has been decided by a single goal. The last time the teams played, 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 5-1-2 at home in 2021 while Miami is surprisingly more successful on the road than at DRV PNK Stadium, going 2-3-1 away from home. Orlando City is coming off a 3-2 home win over Atlanta United last Friday. That ended a run of just one win in five matches for Orlando and now the Lions have won two of their last three — both at home.
The Herons are unbeaten in their last two games (1-0-1) since getting drubbed 5-0 against New England at home. Inter Miami has lost its last three road games after starting 2-0-1 with wins at Philadelphia and Cincinnati sandwiching a draw at Nashville. All three of those losses — to Chicago, D.C. United, and Montreal — had final scores of 1-0.
It’s a rivalry game, so anything can happen. History suggests it’ll be tight.
The Lions will need to shut down Gonzalo Higuain, who scored to put Miami ahead in the second half of the last meeting. The younger Higuain, 33, has scored seven of his team’s 12 goals on the season, which is good enough to put him in a tie for ninth in the league. Gregore and Lewis Morgan are the team’s playmakers, with three assists each on the year.
“It’s another opportunity for us, in a short period of time, to keep adding the points and at the same time, we’re just getting the players now from the national teams coming back,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “There are no doubts that we have in front of us a difficult game with a rival, we always respect them all and understand that the priority for us is just to prepare for our next rival with all the energy. As we said last week after New York (City FC), we turn the page and move on to the next one. With that great victory against Atlanta, we move on as well and we are preparing the boys and we will be ready for the match.”
The Lions will be without Sebas Mendez and Alexandre Pato due to lower body injuries. Pato is listed as questionable but Pareja said this week he isn’t ready to return yet. Also listed as questionable with lower body injuries are Junior Urso — who came off the bench Friday — and starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. If Gallese can’t go, Mason Stajduhar could start his second consecutive match or the recently re-signed Adam Grinwis could fill in. Daryl Dike should be available but may be either on the bench or left out of the squad to recover from his Gold Cup run.
Miami will be without Joevin Jones and Ian Fray, while Ryan Shawcross is questionable. Because Miami is even more opaque about injury news than Orlando City is, all are simply listed as having an “injury.” In addition,Gonzalez Pirez is listed as out due to yellow card suspension.
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.
- Topher Adams writes that Silvester van der Water must become more consistent after his standout performance against Atlanta.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Mason Stajduhar.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Chris Mueller, Andres Perea, Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra.
Forwards: Nani, Benji Michel.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Emmanuel Mas, Rodrigo Schlegel, Joey DeZart, Uri Rosell, David Loera, Alexander Alvarado, Silvester van der Water, Tesho Akindele.
Inter Miami (4-3-3-)
Goalkeeper: Nick Marsman.
Defenders: Kieran Gibbs, Christian Makoun, Nicolas Figal, Kelvin Leerdam.
Defensive Midfielders: Blaise Matuidi, Gregore, Victor Ulloa.
Forwards: Robbie Robinson, Gonzalo Higuain, Lewis Morgan.
Bench: John McCarthy, Dylan Castanheira, Brek Shea, Sami Guediri, Indiana Vassilev, Federico Higuain, Jay Chapman, Rodolfo Pizarro, Julian Carranza.
Ref: Armando Villarreal.
AR1: Jeremy Kieso.
AR2: Diego Blas.
4th: Tori Penso.
VAR: Guido Gonzales Jr.
AVAR: Jeff Muschik.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only) and locally on the LionNation app.
Enjoy the game. Go City!
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