Orlando City (14-7-8, 50 points) vs. Inter Miami CF (9-15-4, 28 points)
When: Sunday, 7:30 PM
Where: Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Everything you need to know for Orlando City vs. Inter Miami CF in "The Road Ahead" driven by Audi:
-- With a win against Miami on Sunday, Orlando will set a new single-season record for wins (15) and points (53), snapping marks set in 2022 and 2021, respectively. A draw would bring the club level with the points record.
-- Oscar Pareja’s next win will be his 60th as Orlando City head coach.
-- Facundo Torres is currently tied with club legend Kaká for third on Orlando City’s all-time scoring charts. Torres’ next goal would give him sole possession of third place and leave him chasing Cyle Larin (44) and Nani (31) at the top of the list.
-- Mauricio Pereyra’s next assist will give him double-digit helpers in three consecutive seasons. Pereyra has 44 career assists for Orlando City, 18 more than any other player.
Stats and storylines
-- Orlando City clinched a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive season on Wednesday night thanks to D.C. United’s draw against Atlanta United. The Lions clinched with five matches remaining in the campaign, the joint-earliest they have officially qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs along with the 2020 season.
-- Wednesday night’s actual match was a rare blip for Orlando City, as the club fell 2-0 to New York City FC at Citi Field. The Lions were shut out for the first time in ten matches in all competitions. Despite the loss, Orlando remains second in the East and tied for second in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
-- Four of Orlando’s last five losses have been away games on short rest going all the way back to May 9 – at Charlotte in the Open Cup, at Real Salt Lake on July 8, at Inter Miami in Leagues Cup, and Wednesday night. The only time Orlando has lost with a full week of rest in that span was on June 17 at New England, a game played on turf during an international break without Facundo Torres, Pedro Gallese, or Wilder Cartagena. The only teams which face short rest in the MLS Cup Playoffs are the 8 and 9 seeds in each conference.
-- Despite the loss, Gallese continues to record a strong end to the campaign. El Pulpo has saved 12 shots in his last two matches since returning from Peru, where he allowed just one goal on nine shots in two World Cup qualifiers.
All-time vs. Inter Miami - 5-4-3, -1 GD (2-0-3, +2 GD home)
MLS only vs. Inter Miami - 5-3-2, +1 GD (2-0-2, +2 GD home)
- 2020 - W 2-1 (N), L 2-1 (A), W 2-1 (H), L 2-1 (A)
- 2021 - W 1-2 (A), D 1-1 (H), D 0-0 (H)
- 2022 - D 1-1 (4-2) (H/USOC), W 1-0 (H), L 4-1 (A)
- 2023 - W 1-3 (A), L 3-1 (A/LC)
- 2021 - D 1-1 (H), L 5-0 (A)
- 2022 - W 2-1 (H), L 2-1 (A)
- 2023 - D 1-1 (H)
Meet the opponent: Inter Miami CF
-- Sunday’s match was expected to be Lionel Messi’s Exploria Stadium debut, but plans have since changed. After Messi left Miami’s match against Toronto on Wednesday night late in the first half with an apparent injury, head coach Tata Martino confirmed the Barcelona and Argentina legend would not feature against Orlando this weekend. Messi’s erstwhile Barca running mate Jordi Alba also left the Toronto game just minutes before Messi and has been ruled out for Sunday as well.
-- Despite Messi’s absence, Miami rallied to down Toronto 4-0 and keep its playoff hopes alive for another week. The Herons are five points back of ninth-place D.C. United with two games in hand, though they will also have to pass NYCFC, the New York Red Bulls, and Charlotte FC to qualify for the postseason.
-- Miami should still have Sergio Busquets available on Sunday, as well as a host of youngsters who have thrived playing alongside the ex-Barca greats. Robert Taylor (6 G/7 A since Messi’s arrival), Benjamin Cremaschi, and new U22 signings Facundo Farías, Tomás Avilés, and Diego Gómez have all played significant roles in helping the Herons climb the table
-- Orlando will also have to deal with longtime villain Josef Martínez, who drew and scored a controversial penalty and assisted Messi’s second goal in Miami’s 3-1 win over Orlando City in Leagues Cup back in August. Martínez has nine goals in 12 matches against the Lions in all competitions, putting him one shy of Ignacio Piatti’s record for most goals scored vs. Orlando.