Orlando City and Inter Miami will square off in the first edition of the 2023 Florida derby on Saturday night. Both teams are looking to push into a playoff spot as they sit just below the cut-off line.
Orlando City (4-4-4, 16 points) earned a second straight draw after splitting the points 1-1 with New York City FC on Wednesday night. Forward Ercan Kara gave Orlando City the lead in the seventh minute, his third goal this season and second-best on the team in league play. Orlando gave up an 89th-minute goal to NYCFC to end the night with only one point after leading the vast majority of the game.
“It’s a difficult thing to swallow right now,” Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “But a lot of things happened as well that make us feel like we are getting back to that team that we are. We will stay with our balance and our minds fresh because the turnaround is quick.”
A big part of Orlando holding off NYCFC for almost the entire match was the play of goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. His five saves, tying his season-high, earned him a spot on MLS’ Team of the Matchday.
Inter Miami (5-7-0, 15 points) had its three-game winning streak get snapped on the road with a 2-1 loss to Nashville SC on Wednesday night. Miami surrendered two goals before Dixon Arroyo lashed home a goal from a partially-cleared Miami corner in second-half extra time. It was his first MLS goal and came in his fifth appearance for the club.
“The goal at the end showed the character of the team,” Miami coach Phil Neville said. “Now it’s all about getting ready for Saturday’s game. We need to bounce back against Orlando. It’s a big game and it’s a great game to bounce back in, and the team will be ready for it.”
Home has been kind to Miami with four wins in its last six home matches. Also providing a boost is Josef Martinez, the team’s leading goal scorer with three. He especially has tortured Orlando City in the past with eight goals in 10 appearances.
The Florida derby is always a heated affair, and this year’s matchup is sure to be no different. Both teams are desperate for a win, and it should be an exciting contest from start to finish.
Here are some of the key matchups to watch for in the Florida derby:
- Ercan Kara vs. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez: Kara has been one of the bright spots for Orlando City this season, and he will be looking to continue his good form against Miami’s defense. Gonzalez Pirez is one of the best defenders in MLS, and he will be tasked with keeping Kara quiet.
- Pedro Gallese vs. Josef Martinez: Gallese has been a rock in goal for Orlando City this season, and he will need to be at his best to stop Martinez. Martinez is one of the most dangerous strikers in MLS, and he has a history of scoring against Orlando City.
- The midfield battle: The midfield battle will be key in this match. Both teams have strong midfields, and the team that can control the midfield will likely win the game.