Welcome to your match preview and live thread for a Wednesday night international friendly between Orlando City and English Premier League giants Arsenal at Exploria Stadium. This will be the first-ever match-up between the two clubs and could scarcely come at a worse time for the Lions, who are in the midst of a grueling stretch of eight matches in 27 days. That includes rivalry games, key matches in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, and even a U.S. Open Cup semifinal next week against the New York Red Bulls.
Still, the fixture is on the schedule and in other circumstances would be one we’d all be a bit more excited about.
There isn’t any. You can just move along.
Orlando City, as mentioned, is coming off a brutal stretch that will continue this weekend, so the usual rules don’t apply here. While it’s likely we’ll see some regulars, there will probably be some backups, OCB, and perhaps even academy players in the mix to see the field in this friendly. There will also probably be a few regular starters who inexplicably play a lot more than we want them to tonight. That’s generally par for the course in a midseason friendly, but it’s been a long time since the Lions have played one — and it’s the first time under the current regime, so there’s no real track record.
The Lions are unbeaten in three games (1-0-2), but also winless in their last two (0-0-2) after a grueling two-game road trip to Colorado and rival Atlanta that both ended in 1-1 draws. Orlando City is 5-5-0 at home in MLS play and 7-5-2 at Exploria Stadium in all competitions in 2022 (MLS plus U.S. Open Cup).
Arsenal enters with a 2-0-0 record on the team’s preseason tour, with a 5-3 win over FC Nurnberg on July 8 and a 2-0 victory over Everton on July 16. It’s hard to know what a team will do during preseason or what the personnel will even be like, so I didn’t bother trying. Instead, I enlisted the help of Aaron Lerner, the manager of SBNation’s Arsenal site, The Short Fuse. Here’s what he had to say about the Gunners:
“Arsenal have pretty much their full complement of players on the tour. The only “surprises” were that academy players Charlie Patino and Marcelo Flores weren’t included on the trip. Mikel Arteta said they were left out because he was trying to find the right “balance” of players. Right now, the side has a few guys dealing with nagging injuries. The oft-injured Kieran Tierney has a slight knock, as does Emile Smith Rowe. Summer signing Fabio Vieira is expected to be out another week recovering from a bone injury in his foot picked up on international duty at the start of the summer. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ben White missed out on the match in Baltimore but both look to be back in training.”
So what should Orlando City fans be on the lookout for when Arsenal lines up against the Lions?
“Gabriel Jesus has looked really good so far on the tour,” Lerner said. “He brings a totally different element to the Arsenal attack, especially in terms of his quickness on the turn and his pressing. His ability to press has seen the Gunners pressing much higher up the pitch than they did last season, and it really caused problems for Everton, forcing multiple turnovers in good positions (or bad ones, from Everton’s perspective).
“Another player to keep an eye on is William Saliba. The Gunners signed him in 2019 but he’s basically been out on loan the entire time since then, which has worked out rather nicely — he was the young player of the season in Ligue Un last year and played all but one match for Marseille. There has been a bit of (manufactured) drama about a potential rift between him and the club/Arteta and a will-he, won’t-he play for Arsenal saga, but Arteta has definitively said he’s part of the plans for this upcoming season. He looked incredibly impressive against Everton. He’s big and strong, physical, has pace, and is good on the ball. Early days, but he looks to be the total package at CB.”
OK, so not much to worry about then?
Seriously though, let’s just hope both teams have fun and get through it without any knocks.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Michael Halliday.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Andres Perea.
Attacking Midfielders: Jake Mulraney, Facundo Torres, Benji Michel.
Forward: Alexandre Pato.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Ruan, Kyle Smith, Alex Freeman, Thomas Williams, Brandon Hackenberg, Rodrigo Schlegel, Erick Gunera, Junior Urso, Wilfredo Rivera, Moises Tablante, Mauricio Pereyra, Tesho Akindele, Jack Lynn, Ercan Kara.
Goalkeeper: Aaron Ramsdale.
Defenders: Nuno Tavares, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari, Cedric Soares.
Midfielders: Sambi Lakonga, Mohamed Elneny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Forwards: Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe, Eddie Nketiah.
Bench: Matt Turner, Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba, Hector Bellerin, Bukayo Saka, Ben White, Thomas Partey, Martin Ødegaard, Reiss Nelson, Flo Balogun, Gabriel Jesus, Granit Xhaka, Marquinhos, Revell Walters.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+
Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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