Welcome to your match preview and live thread for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (1-0-2, 5 points) and Charlotte FC (0-3-0, 0 points) at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This is the first of two scheduled meetings between the new Eastern Conference foes this season and the only one in Orlando. The Lions will make the return visit to Charlotte on Wednesday, Aug. 30.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
The Lions are 2-0-0 in the all-time series and 1-0-0 at home against the second-year side. The teams last met on Aug. 21 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, with Tesho Akindele’s late goal lifting Orlando to a 2-1 victory. After a scoreless first half, Ercan Kara put the Lions ahead on the road, only to see McKinze Gaines equalize just four minutes later.
That victory in North Carolina was the second in a run of five consecutive wins that culminated in Orlando lifting the U.S. Open Cup last summer. The Lions then stumbled to just two wins in their last five regular-season games and then fell at Montreal in the playoffs.
Orlando City won the first-ever meeting between the sides on April 30, 2022 at Exploria Stadium. Ruan scored the opening goal and set up Facundo Torres on the counter for the second as the Lions took a 2-0 lead into the locker room. Christian Fuchs scored from the spot after Rodrigo Schlegel was called for a foul in the box in the second half, but that was as close as Charlotte got in what was ultimately a 2-1 Orlando victory.
Orlando City is on short rest and will be playing its fifth match in 15 days. The Lions left it all on the field Wednesday night at home in a 1-1 draw against Tigres in Concacaf Champions League play, but that wasn’t enough to advance. The Lions will try to bounce back on tired legs and likely with plenty of rotation in the starting lineup. Orlando is unbeaten in league play (1-0-2) and in all competitions (1-0-4) and is 1-0-1 at home in league play (1-0-2 in all competitions. City has drawn four consecutive matches in all competitions — every game since its opening day win over the New York Red Bulls.
The main reason the Lions keep drawing is a dearth of goals. Orlando City has scored just twice in three league games and once in the two CCL matches. One of the few MLS teams to score fewer than Orlando’s two league goals is Charlotte. Enzo Copetti scored in Charlotte’s loss at St. Louis City and the Crown got shut out against New England and Atlanta.
Charlotte is 0-1-0 on the road but did score its lone goal away from home. Still, the North Carolina club went 3-12-2 away from home last year, so it is 3-13-2 in its first 18 road matches since joining MLS.
However, the visitors might like their chances tonight. Despite giving up a league-high seven goals on the season and having a league-worst -6 goal differential. But they’ll not only be the more rested side, they’ll get to face an offense that has lacked bite almost as much as their own.
Orlando City will have to shake off the disappointment of its highly emotional midweek match against Tigres and regroup on tired legs. The likelihood is that Oscar Pareja will play that five-man back line we’ve seen throughout this patch of fixture congestion and the Designated Players will probably be limited to 45 minutes max, except maybe for Kara, who came on late Wednesday.
“There are a lot of expectations at this point in the season with the way the standings are,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said in his pre-match press conference. “I said this last week against the Red Bulls, but we have that urgency as a team to get momentum to jump over these hurdles and win three points. We’re going to Charlotte with the same mentality. We know as well that it’s a difficult place, but we’re trying to go with confidence, courage, and we’ve seen the team this week working tremendously well.
“We’ve played Charlotte before, so we know how we’d like to play against them,” midfielder Cesar Araujo said this week. “We’ve been able to take good results so far this year, so that’s first and foremost in our minds to continue that. We’ll continue preparing and then look to take the three points. We’re expecting a great game.”
The Lions have no one listed on their availability report entering the match. Charlotte will be without Guzman Corujo (knee surgery) and goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina (back surgery), while Vinicius Mello (chest injury) is listed as questionable.
Mandatory Match Content
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for today’s match.
- Dave Rohe outlined his three keys to victory for Orlando City in this match.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Mauricio Pereyra.
Attacking Midfielders: Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Martin Ojeda, Facundo Torres.
Forwards: Duncan McGuire.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Kyle Smith, Antonio Carlos, Wilder Cartagena, Felipe, Ivan Angulo, Gaston Gonzalez, Jack Lynn, Ramiro Enrique.
Charlotte FC (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: George Marks.
Defenders: Harrison Afful, Bill Tuiloma, Adilson Malanda, Jaylin Lindsey.
Defensive Midfielders: Ashley Westwood, Derrick Jones.
Attacking Midfielders: Kerwin Calderon Vargas, Brandt Bronico, McKinze Gaines.
Forward: Enzo Copetti.
Bench: Pablo Sisniega, Christopher Hegardt, Kamil Jozwiak, Nuno Santos, Karol Swiderski, Joseph Mora, Benjamin Bender, Andre Shinyashiki, Nathan Byrne.
Ref: Armando Villarreal.
AR1: Nick Uranga.
AR2: Brian Poeschel.
4th: Tori Penso.
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
AVAR: Eric Weisbrod.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV/Live Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
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!