Preview: Inter Miami CF (a).
When? Saturday August 22, 5.00 p.m. PT, 8.00 p.m. ET and 1.00 a.m. (23/8) GMT.
Where? Inter Miami Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+. MLS Live on DASN and Fox 35 Plus. Sky Sports Football for us U.K. folk. The game is also available via radio locally (check local listings).
It kinda feels like we've been here before. A match-up with the noisy neighbours. Them from down the road. That's probably because we have. Recently too.
The first game in Fort Lauderdale's new home will be played without fans. Probably not how Beckham and his crew saw this one going down, but here we are. Diego Alonso's Fort Lauderdale are 0-0-5 heading into this one, whilst Oscar Pareja's team are coming off the back of their heroic run to the MLS Is Back final. Orlando will be confident of taking all 3 points from this fixture. The game represents a real opportunity to permanently sour the home team's homecoming. If you can even call it that.
Make no mistake, though. This will be a tough game. Fort Lauderdale will have revenge on their minds. The memory of Nani's last gasp goal in the opening match of MLS Is Back will still be raw. They will see this as a chance to really announce their arrival in MLS.
Fort Lauderdale's style...
Fort Lauderdale are still trying to establish their identity as a team. Diego Alonso is getting there though. I expect this Fort Lauderdale team to try and get the ball out wide as often as they can. This team has talent in the wide areas, in Morgan and Pellegrini, who will undoubtedly attempt to exploit any space left by Moutinho and Ruan. If we try and cast our minds all the way back to the group stages of MLS Is Back, even to our opening day win, this was a common theme.
If you take a look at figure 1, you'll see the movements of Morgan, Pellegrini and Pizarro (after he was subbed in). You'll note that their positioning is very typical of a 4-2-3-1, with the 3 aforementioned players being the key creative influences for this team. All three will attempt to work the ball out wide and create chances from there (something that is further highlighted in figure 2). They are also just as capable of playing between the lines and looking to set the likes of Carranza in behind the back 4.
Carranza is a player with bags of potential, who is quick and plays off the shoulder. Carlos and Jansson will need to be on their toes in order to keep him quiet if he starts. That being said Juan Agudelo is now available, and thus may be preferred in attack; especially having started 2 of the team's 3 games at MLS Is Back. Orlando don't have a massive amount of pace in central defence though, so I think the quicker Carranza will start, personally.
All of this being said, the 4-2-3-1 favoured by Fort Lauderdale is a system Orlando are set up well to defend. Mendez and Urso will provide plenty of cover for Moutinho and Ruan when they bomb forwards. They should be able to nullify the space for Morgen et al. The same can also be said of Fort Lauderdale of course, with Trapp and Nguyen/Ulloa. However, the 'home' team's full-backs are not as adventurous as ours. Which could work in their favour, as they will be able to strangle that space in the wide areas more easily.
Figure 1 shows the heatmap for Morgan, Pellegrini and Pizarro (after he was subbed in) from our Opening day win.
Figure 2 shows the focus points of Fort Lauderdale's attacks in their 0-1 defeat to NYCFC. Note how they like to focus their forays forward down both wings.
For Orlando City, not much has changed on the availability front. Oscar Pareja has shown how much he prefers to maintain a settled side throughout MLS Is Back. I expect no different for this game. Dom Dwyer continues to be the only absentee from this squad, as he continues his recovery from long-term injury.
As for Fort Lauderdale, they have received some timely boosts in terms of availability. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is now eligible for selection. The big defender was ineligible for MLS Is Back, and will undoubtedly provide a huge boost to this team. Juan Agudelo is also expected to be available for this game, following the rescinding of his first yellow card against NYCFC.
Blaise Matuidi will not be involved against Orlando. The World Cup winner joined from Italian giants, Juventus, last week. The former PSG man is not expected to play due to visa and Covid-19 restrictions.
The team also continues to be without George Acosta (left knee), David Norman Jr (left ankle) and Denso Ulysse (left lower leg).
Possible starting XI for Inter Miami
The main talking point here is with who starts upfront. As previously mentioned, former Stoke City man, Juan Agudelo started 2 of his 3 games at MLS Is Back. That being said this organisation has huge hope for Julián Carranza, who has bags of pace. They may look to him to get in behind Carlos and Jansson. It will be interesting to see what Diego Alonso decides. Elsewhere LGP is now available, so I would be very surprised if he doesn't deputise. I also think Lee Nguyen will come in at CDM. He offers a greater range of passing than Víctor Ulloa. Accurate, and direct, balls over the top could be key to them exploiting any space left by Ruan and Moutinho when they get forward.
* LGP has yet to be assigned a squad number, at least according to mlssoccer.com
Rudolfo Pizarro is this team's most dangerous player. The former Monterrey and Guadalajara playmaker has 25 caps for the Mexican national team. A number 10 in its purest form. Pizarro has a low centre of gravity and a keen eye for a pass. The runs of Carranza, Morgan and Pellegrini will give him plenty of options going forward. He has already scored twice for this team, and I would expect him to add more to his tally in the coming weeks. Danger man.
As we all know, there has only been one meeting between these two rivals. Yes, Florida is still purple. Our Lions triumphed 2-1 during the opening game of MLS Is Back. Juan Agudelo actually gave Fort Lauderdale the lead, before Chris Mueller leveled things up late on, following a great ball in from Nani. The game seemed to be headed for a tie when Nani found himself in the right place, at the right time, to coolly drill a loose ball into the back of Luis Robles's net deep into stoppage time.
*all statistics courtesy of whoscored.com
Line-up graphic courtesy of buildlineup.com