Preview: Inter Miami (a).
When? Saturday, October 24 12.30 p.m. PT, 3.30 p.m. ET and 8.30 p.m. BST.
Where? Inter Miami Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on Univision, TUDN, Twitter (English commentary) and DAZN for residents of the United States and Canada. Sky Sports Football for us U.K. folk. The game is available locally via radio, check local listings.
This is a game that I am very excited about. Not just because it's the latest of the Sunshine State derbies. Not just because Orlando City have clinched. But, because the game kicks off at a reasonable time! And the game is being broadcast in the U.K. Happy days! No 2 a.m. finish! I get to sleep! I can drink my tea and watch the mighty Orlando City ensure that Florida remains purple! Huzzah! Oscar Pareja's team are in fine fettle, and will be looking to further consolidate their place in the top 4 with a vital 3 points.
Fort Lauderdale's style
It's fair to say that this has been a fairly tumultuous first season in MLS for Diego Alonso. Fort Lauderdale have really struggled for form, and have struggled to establish a sense of identity. This is a game that needs to be treated with the utmost trepidation, however. Fort Lauderdale have significant quality in their ranks, and are capable of causing an upset in this one. Blaise Matuidi has brought an element of class to this line-up. During their defeat to Montréal, Matuidi and his midfield colleagues were central to everything Fort Lauderdale created. And they created openings aplenty, with 13 shots at goal. Only 4 troubled the 'keeper though. And to be honest, troubled is probably being generous. They were, however, able to dominate in midfield; pass completion rates of 93%, 95% and 94% for Matuidi, Will Trapp and Victor Ulloa say it all.
All that being said, I have a word for you: context. Montréal are not a high intensity team. Their 19 attempted tackles summarise that quite well. Fort Lauderdale attempted 34, whilst having less possession. The Impact utilise a low-block. They give you time on the ball. Orlando City, do not. Fort Lauderdale struggled to handle Orlando's press. Fort Lauderdale players were dispossessed 13 times during that game at Exploria, with 9 of those steals being executed in the middle of the pitch. The midfield battle is going to be very important.
Orlando City still continue to fall foul of a lengthy injury list, with Dom Dwyer, Joao Moutinho, Uri Rosell, Mauricio Pereyra and Benji Michel all set to miss out. That being said, the return of Michel and Rosell is thought to be close, as both were pictured in training this week.
Pedro Gallese and Sebas Mendez have now returned from international duty. Friday is their last day of quarantine, and Oscar Pareja previously suggested he'd play them both without training. They should be available, which will be a huge boost to the squad. Matheus Aiás has been training with the team, so could be available. Alexander Alvarado is also available for selection, though this game may come a little soon for him.
The big news, at least as far as Fort Lauderdale are concerned, is the absence of Gonzalo Higuaín. The veteran striker was expelled from the game against the Montréal Impact, after the final whistle. The former Chelsea striker was remonstrating with the referee a little too vociferously, and will now miss 3 games. What a shame. I'm so sincere.
Elsewhere on the team the official MLS injury report states that George Acosta (left knee injury), David Norman Jr. (left ankle injury), Denso Ulysse (left lower leg injury), Andres Reyes (not medically cleared), Luis Robles (left arm fracture) are listed as out. Rudolfo Pizarro could also be out, having been involved in Mexico's recent games.
Possible starting XI
We know there will be at least one enforced change for the home team. Gonzalo Higuaín's tempestuous sending off means that Juan Agudelo will probably get the nod up front. There were high expectations for Matías Pellegrini, but it's not quite worked out for the young Argentine. The former Estudiantes de La Plata striker has only mustered 1 goal and 2 assists in his 16 appearances. Agudelo, meanwhile has scored 3 from 8 starts and 4 substitute appearances. Prior to his arrival in Fort Lauderdale, he scored 28 in 142 for the New England Revolution. Expect the experienced former Stoke City man to deputise for Higuaín. Aside from that, I can see a largely unchanged team, considering the extra rest days they've had since their game at the weekend. It feels weird to refer to a week's rest as an extended rest period, but this is 2020.
The former French international has established himself as a key part of this team, having featured 11 times (10 starts) since his arrival. He's amassed 913 minutes and 1 assist during that time. The midfielder has had a glittering, trophy laden, career to date. Having clocked up 500 career appearances for Troyes, Saint-Étienne, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. He brings a wealth of quality and experience to this Fort Lauderdale team. He's won multiple league titles with PSG and Juve, whilst playing alongside some of the game's greatest players. Defensively disciplined and with excellent distribution, Orlando will need to get on top of him to emerge victorious.
Diego Alonso's team are in miserable form, 5-3-11 on the season overall. They currently languish in 12th in the eastern conference standings. It's been a difficult debut season for the club, who lost to Montréal last time out.
Orlando, meanwhile, are 12 unbeaten with an 8-8-2 record. The Lions clinched a play-off spot last weekend, and will be looking to build on their draw in New Jersey as they seek to cement their top 4 place.
*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com