Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup Tropic Thunder match-up between Orlando City and the team’s Publix Enemies, Inter Miami CF, at Exploria Stadium (7 p.m., ESPN+). It’s the first USOC meeting in the series, with two regular-season match-ups still to come in 2022. The teams will play in Orlando again on July 9 and in Ft. Lauderdale on Sept. 4.
The Lions enter this round of the competition after knocking out the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Philadelphia Union by identical 2-1 scorelines. Inter Miami won 1-0 at Miami FC of the USL Championship in its first game of the tournament and drew USL League One side South Georgia Tormenta FC in the Round of 32, winning 3-1 at home.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
Orlando City is 3-2-2 in this fledgling series (1-0-2 at home) and every match so far has been decided by a single goal (or fewer, in the case of last year’s draw). The last time the teams played, the game finished in 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 in the previous meeting 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 2000, 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 are 6-4-3 in MLS play in 2022 so far — sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference — but just 3-3-0 in league matches played at home. Adding in the U.S. Open Cup games, Orlando is 5-3-0 in all competitions at Exploria Stadium this season. All eyes will be on Orlando to see how the team responds to Sunday night’s match in Austin, in which referee Joe Dickerson inserted himself firmly into the game. Orlando’s well-earned 2-0 lead slipped away into a 2-2 draw, with both Austin goals assisted by curious decisions by Dickerson. The second was particularly egregious, as a fairly obvious-looking goal kick was ruled a corner and the hosts used that to tie the match in the 95th minute against the nine-man Lions.
Despite the lost points, the Lions are on a modest three-match (2-0-1) unbeaten streak in all competitions.
Inter Miami is 4-6-3 in MLS play, currently occupying the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference. The Herons are 1-4-1 on the road, but do hold an away victory in this competition. Miami is 2-0-2 in its last four matches in all competitions, allowing just three goals in those contests — two of them in a 2-2 home draw against D.C. United. It’s the team’s best run of form so far this season.
It’s a rivalry game, so anything can happen. History suggests it’ll be tight.
The Lions will need to shut down Leonardo Campana, who leads the Herons with six goals on the season and has added two assists as well. Gonzalo Higuain is always a threat who needs very little space to change a game. His minutes have been limited this season, and he’s been played out of position at times, but he still has two goals and an assist. Ariel Lassiter leads the club with three assists and can also be a threat in front of goal. At the other end, the Herons have gotten strong goalkeeping from Drake Callender, who made this week’s MLS Team of the Week.
“We want to win the Cup game,” Orlando City forward Ercan Kara said after Sunday’s match in Austin. “We want to win the derby. It’s a very important game for us and we need support from the fans in our stadium. And we are looking forward to a good game.”
The Lions will be without Antonio Carlos (left thigh), Benji Michel (right lower leg), and Silvester van der Water (left lower leg). There could also be some squad rotation after a hard-fought hundred minutes in Austin Sunday night. Oscar Pareja pulled off attacking starters Mauricio Pereyra, Ercan Kara, and Facundo Torres after the team went down two men, so at least they didn’t go the distance.
Miami’s availability report was not public at the time of this writing. In fact, looking back through MLS game guides the last few weeks shows no sign of Miami’s game notes in the place where all the other MLS teams post them.
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.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Mason Stajduhar.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Sebas Mendez.
Attacking Midfielders: Junior Urso, Facundo Torres, Tesho Akindele.
Forward: Alexandre Pato.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Joao Moutinho, Michael Halliday, Andres Perea, Mauricio Pereyra, Jack Lynn, Ercan Kara.
Inter Miami (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Drake Callender.
Defenders: Christopher McVey, Aime Mabika, Damion Lowe, Victor Ulloa.
Midfielders: Robert Taylor, Jean Mota, Gregore.
Forwards: Emerson Rodriguez, Gonzalo Higuain, Indiana Vassilev.
Bench: Clement Diop, DeAndre Yedlin, Ryan Sailor, Joevin Jones, Bryce Duke, Ariel Lassiter, Leonardo Campana.
Ref: Kevin Broadley.
AR1: Kevin Lock.
AR2: Justin Howard.
4th: Alex Billeter.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+.
Enjoy the game. Go City!
The Mane Land has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though The Mane Land and SB Nation may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.