Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night Tropic Thunder match-up between Orlando City (7-7-4, 25 points) and the team’s Publix Enemies, Inter Miami CF (6-7-4, 22 points), at Exploria Stadium (8 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). It’s the first of two scheduled regular-season match-ups between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2022. The teams will play in Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 4.
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) in the regular season and 3-2-3 overall and 1-0-3 at home in all competitions. Every match so far has been decided by a single goal (or fewer). The most recent meeting came at Exploria Stadium back on May 25 in U.S. Open Cup action, with the teams 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 last time the teams played in the regular season, 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 struggling at home this season and just in general lately. Orlando City fell to .500 with a dreadful 5-3 home loss to D.C. United on Monday night. Overall, the Lions have won only one of their last nine matches in all competitions (1-3-4) dating back to May 14 — 1-3-2 in league play. That’s been wallpapered over a bit by two post-game penalty shootout wins in the U.S. Open Cup over Miami and Nashville, but the truth of it is that the Lions have stumbled, and home form is a large part of that. Orlando City is just 4-5-0 at home in MLS matches in 2022. Adding in the U.S. Open Cup games, Orlando is 6-5-2 in all competitions at Exploria Stadium this season.
Orlando’s leaky defense at home has been curious, to say the least. The Lions have allowed multiple goals in five home MLS matches in 2022, including five to a low-scoring D.C. United team the last time out. Four of Orlando’s five highest goals-against totals this year have come at home — three against the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas, four against LAFC, and five against D.C. The other match in the bottom five was a 4-1 loss at Montreal on May 7.
Hey, at least the Lions scored three times for the first time all season on Monday night.
Inter Miami is 1-5-2 on the road but has played Orlando tough in Exploria Stadium (almost like it was a rivalre or something!).
Miami has gotten a result in two straight games (1-0-1) after Monday night’s 1-1 draw at FC Dallas. The Herons are in decent form, though, going 3-1-3 in their last seven league games. They’ve pulled to within three points of Orlando with a game in hand, so the visitors will be extra motivated to get a win tonight.
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 eight 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 and Duke each lead the club with three assists and can also be threats in front of goal. Additionally, Miami just acquired Designated Player Alejandro Pozuelo from Toronto, although it is unknown as of this writing if he will be in the lineup.
At the other end, the Herons have gotten strong goalkeeping from Drake Callender.
“Our training and our preparation has been the same with not much time, but we’re trying to organize and be active. We’re getting ready for Miami, that’s where we’re at,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said ahead of the match. “They have had a good period and are getting good results. It seems like they’re finding some stability in the way they do things and that’s something we recognize, but we’re trying to be ready and be prepared and worry about what we can do.”
The Lions will be without goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar (jaw), while defender Joao Moutinho is listed officially as questionable, although as of Thursday he was not looking good to be in the game day squad. Inter Miami, much like in the lead-up to the USOC match, has not filed its game notes to the league server as of the time of this writing.
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 Dave Rohe gave his three keys to victory for Orlando City in this match.
- Our Josh Munsey went inside Inter Miami’s numbers in his latest scouting report.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Junior Urso.
Attacking Midfielders: Facundo Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, Benji Michel.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Michael Halliday, Antonio Carlos, Sebas Mendez, Andres Perea, Jake Mulraney, Tesho Akindele, Alexandre Pato, Jack Lynn.
Inter Miami (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Drake Callender.
Defenders: Christopher McVey, Aime Mabika, Damion Lowe.
Midfielders: Robert Taylor, Jean Mota, Gregore, DeAndre Yedlin.
Forwards: Bryce Duke, Leonardo Campana, Indiana Vassilev.
Bench: Clement Diop, Nick Marsman, Emerson Rodriguez, Victor Ulloa, Kieran Gibbs, Joevin Jones, Ryan Sailor, Jairo Quinteros, Shaan Hundal.
Ref: Nima Saghafi.
AR1: Corey Parker.
AR2: Andrew Bigelow.
4th: Natalie Simon.
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero.
AVAR: Rene Parra.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (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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