Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night Tropic Thunder match-up between Orlando City (13-13-6, 45 points) and the team’s Publix Enemies, Inter Miami CF (13-13-6, 45 points), at DRV PNK Stadium (8 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). It’s the second of two scheduled regular-season match-ups between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2022 and the third meeting in all competitions.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
Orlando City is 4-2-2 in this fledgling series (1-2-0 on the road) in the regular season and 4-2-3 in all competitions. Every meeting so far that hasn’t been a draw has been decided by a single goal. The most recent meeting was a 1-0 Orlando City win at Exploria Stadium on July 9 as a stoppage-time own goal by Damion Lowe was the difference between the Lions earning just one point or all three. The ball was sent into the box by Jake Mulraney.
The teams also met at Exploria Stadium back on May 25 in U.S. Open Cup action, with the two sides needing extra time after a scoreless 90 minutes. In extra time, Miami got a goal from Jean Mota against the run of play, but Facundo Torres quickly equalized for Orlando. The match ended 1-1 and Orlando won the ensuing penalty shootout, 4-2. Bryce Duke was denied by Mason Stajduhar and DeAndre Yedlin missed the net during the spot kicks, while all four Orlando shooters scored.
The intrastate rivals played to a scoreless draw in Orlando on Aug. 27, 2021. Tesho Akindele missed a penalty in the match, but the Lions had several other good opportunities to score (but didn’t) in a wasteful performance. Orlando and Miami battled to a 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium on Aug. 4, 2021. 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. Akindele had a goal called back after video review for being offside and the teams split the points. Earlier in the 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, 2021.
In the final meeting of 2020, the Lions saw their 12-match unbeaten streak end on Oct. 24 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 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 minute.
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 game. 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 have not been in a good run of form since winning the U.S. Open Cup in early September. Orlando City has won only once in four matches since claiming the trophy and enter on the heels of Sunday afternoon’s 2-1 loss at New York City FC, in which the team got only one shot on target. The 4-0 win at home over Toronto FC seems like an aberration in that post-tournament stretch that included a beatdown in Philadelphia and a 1-0 home loss to Atlanta. The Lions have scored one goal or none three times in the last four matches and have lost consecutive road games for the first time in 2022 with Sunday’s defeat.
Orlando City is 5-5-6 away from home on the season.
Inter Miami will be on two more days rest than Orlando City, having played in Toronto last Friday. The Herons are an impressive 9-3-3 at home on the year and would be in much better position with regard to the postseason if not for a 4-10-3 road record. The club has won three straight matches because no one seems capable of defending Gonzalo Higuain after the 80th minute. Higuain, who announced Monday that he’ll retire after this season, scored game-winning goals in the 82nd minute vs. Columbus, in the 94th minute at D.C. United, and in the 86th minute at Toronto FC in the last three Miami games to snap late deadlocks. That’s the difference between Miami being level on points with Orlando entering tonight’s game and being stuck on 39 points, which would already have the Herons eliminated and in 12th place. This league, man.
It’s a rivalry game, so anything can happen. History suggests it’ll be tight.
The Lions will need to shut down Higuain, who has had a sudden renaissance after being largely useless for much of his time in Miami. The big Argentine, who needs very little space to change a game, has a team-high 14 goals and three assists on the season. Just behind Higuain is Leonardo Campana, with 10 goals and two assists. The addition of Alejandro Pozuelo from Toronto has rejuvenated Miami’s playoff push. Pozuelo has two goals and six assists since joining the Herons, which ties him with Duke for the team lead in assists. At the other end, the Herons have gotten strong goalkeeping from Drake Callender since he seized the starting role. Orlando City has yet to score against the Herons in regular time in two prior meetings this season — aside from the Lowe own goal, which counts on the scoreboard but was hardly intentional — so finding the net will be a riddle Head Coach Oscar Pareja will need to solve.
“We’ve got to turn around and try to get our revenge in these next couple of games and make sure that each game we’re going out there and giving it our all to try and take the big victory that we need,” Young Designated Player Facundo Torres said after Sunday’s loss. “These next few games are incredibly important. We know that Wednesday’s game in Miami is important for our hunting the playoffs and it’s also a rivalry game so it’s fundamental and vital for us over these next two games to make sure that we do everything to take a win and put ourselves in the playoffs.”
The Lions will be without Robin Jansson (lower leg), Alexandre Pato (knee), and Joey DeZart (knee). Miami will not have Gregore (yellow card suspension), Ian Fray (knee) or Robbie Robinson (hamstring), while Pozuelo (groin), Shea (hamstring), and Corentin Jean (knee) are listed as questionable.
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.
- Our Josh Munsey went inside Inter Miami’s numbers in his latest scouting report.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Junior Urso.
Attacking Midfielders: Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres.
Forward: Tesho Akindele
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Ruan, Michael Halliday, Wilder Cartagena, Andres Perea, Jake Mulraney, Niko Gioacchini, Ivan Angulo, Ercan Kara.
Inter Miami (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Drake Callender.
Defenders: Christopher McVey, Aime Mabika, Damion Lowe, DeAndre Yedlin.
Midfielders: Bryce Duke, Jean Mota, Indiana Vassilev.
Attacking Midfielder: Robert Taylor.
Forwards: Leonardo Campana, Gonzalo Higuain.
Bench: Nick Marsman, Brek Shea, Joevin Jones, Harvey Neville, Kieran Gibbs, Ryan Sailor, Emerson Rodriguez, Victor Ulloa, Ariel Lassiter.
Ref: Victor Rivas.
AR1: Jeffrey Greeson.
AR2: Jose Da Silva.
4th: Marcos DeOliveira.
VAR: Edvin Jurisevic.
AVAR: Nick Uranga.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: DRV PNK Stadium — Fort Lauderdale.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only) and on the LionNation app (in market only).
Enjoy the game. Go City!
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