Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup third-round match-up between Orlando City and the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Exploria Stadium (7 p.m., ESPN+). The I-4 Derby was established before the Lions joined Major League Soccer but this edition of the rivalry has real stakes. It’s the second time the teams have met in this competition.
Here’s what you need to know about the match.
Orlando City is 6-0-0 in the all-time series as far as “official” records go, but 9-0-0 if you count the three preseason friendlies since the Lions made the jump to MLS.
The I-4 Derby began in 2013, when the Lions and Rowdies met three times. Orlando City was in the third-division USL Pro at the time, while the Rowdies played in the second division’s NASL. The teams first met on Feb. 23, 2013 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports as part of the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic. The Lions won that game in the tournament’s consolation bracket 2-0, thanks to a first-minute penalty conversion by midfielder Jamie Watson and a 78th-minute sealer by striker Dennis Chin.
The I-4 Derby was established after that with a pair of home-and-home preseason friendlies. The teams met in Orlando on March 9, 2013, with the Lions capturing a 3-2 win on goals by Watson, James O’Connor, and Jean Alexandre, while Amani Walker and Luke Mulholland scored Tampa Bay’s first goals against Orlando City. The return leg took place at Al Lang Stadium on March 30 of that year and Orlando won 3-2 again. Kevin Molino, Adama Mbengue, and Dom Dwyer provided the offense, with Dwyer’s 91st-minute strike winning the game. Takuya Yamada and Walker scored for the Rowdies.
The I-4 Derby resumed in 2014, with the first game taking place in Lake Buena Vista on April 30, as the Lions played home matches at Disney’s Wide World of Sports that year. Orlando City won 3-0 on goals by Mbengue, Chin, and Brian “Cobi” Span.
The teams then met in the U.S. Open Cup in the first competitive I-4 Derby match-up on May 28, 2014, at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford. The Lions thumped the Rowdies 4-1 in that match, with Molino bagging a first-half brace and Austin da Luz and Mbengue also scoring in the opening 45 minutes. Blake Wagner’s goal just before halftime spoiled the shutout but the Lions handled their business.
The return leg of the regularly scheduled 2014 I-4 Derby in St. Petersburg didn’t happen until July 6, with Orlando winning by a 3-2 scoreline for the third time in the series. Molino and Darwin Ceren scored on either side of a strike by Tampa Bay’s Georgi Hristov to take a 2-1 lead into the break. Hristov tied the match in the second half, but Corey Hertzog scored the winner for the Lions in the 75th minute.
Since 2014, the teams have met only in a few preseason friendlies/scrimmages and they apparently aren’t being counted in the overall series. The Lions and Rowdies met in the 2017 preseason, playing to a scoreless draw at Sylvan Lake Park in a closed-door scrimmage held on Feb. 11. Three years later, almost to the day, the teams met again in the preseason — this time at Exploria Stadium — on Feb. 12, 2020. Orlando City won 2-1, with Junior Urso and Jordan Bender supplying the offense in a come-from-behind win after Kyle Murphy had put Tampa ahead.
The most recent meeting came Feb. 19 of this year, when the Lions again topped the Rowdies in preseason behind closed doors. Tesho Akindele, Mauricio Pereyra (penalty), and Jack Lynn scored for Orlando, while Tampa Bay avoided a shutout thanks to a goal by Jake LaCava.
Orlando City is coming off Saturday’s 2-0 road win over the Columbus Crew, in which Rodrigo Schlegel opened his MLS account and Ercan Kara added his second goal in the last two games. The Lions are 2-2-0 at home in 2022.
Tampa Bay is 3-1-3 on the USL Championship season, sitting third in the Eastern Conference standings. The Rowdies are coming off a 3-1 win over FC Tulsa at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday. Tampa is 1-0-2 away from home in 2022.
The Lions will need to be wary of LaCava, who leads the Rowdies with three goals and an assist on the season in seven games (five starts). Sebastian Dalgaard has chipped in two goals. Leo Fernandes and Sebastián Guenzatti have been the team’s providers thus far, with two assists each.
Orlando City will likely rotate the starting lineup from Saturday’s match, but it’s worth noting that neither Alexandre Pato nor Ruan played any minutes on Saturday. This match will provide an opportunity for Oscar Pareja and his staff to give a look to players who haven’t gotten on the field that much yet this year, such as Akindele, Andres Perea, and potentially Thomas Williams and Lynn.
“We’re excited to play the first game [of this competition] versus a good team,” Orlando City Assistant Coach Josema Bazán said in a pre-match press conference. “It’s going to be a very good match. The players are excited to play in the game in their first match of the Open Cup. We are all on the same page and we’ll continue to get ready.”
Orlando City will be without Antonio Carlos (hamstring), but no other Lions are on the availability report.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Mason Stajduhar.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Thomas Williams, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Sebas Mendez, Andres Perea.
Attacking Midfielders: Benji Michel, Junior Urso, Silvester van der Water.
Forward: Alexandre Pato.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Cesar Araujo, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara.
Tampa Bay Rowdies (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Raiko Arozarena.
Defenders: Aaron Guillen, William Conner Antley, Laurence Wyke.
Midfielders: Dayonn Harris, Junior Etou, Lewis Hilton, Leo Fernandes.
Forwards: Sebastián Guenzatti, Jake LaCava, Steevan Dos Santos.
Bench: CJ Cochran, Jordan Scarlett, Jake Areman, Yann Ekra, Kyle Grieg, Juan Tejada, Lucky Mkosana.
Ref: Daniel Gutierrez.
AR1: Abdel Kuttaineh.
AR2: Albert Escover.
4th: Jasmine Peralta.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+.
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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