After serving a two-game league suspension to start the Lions’ 2020 campaign, captain Luis Nani will be available for selection for the first time this season ahead of Wednesday’s Inter Miami matchup. The Portuguese international led the Lions in goals and assists in 2019 with 10 and 12 respectively, becoming the first player in Club history to lead the team in both stats in the same year. Nani logged 30 appearances last season, the most among all field players, trailing only goalkeeper Brian Rowe on the 2019 roster.
The Return of the Derby
The Lions will return to the field for the first time on Wednesday following a four-month hiatus, set to take on intrastate foe Inter Miami for the inaugural matchup between the two clubs. The match will mark the first time two Florida franchises will face off in Major League Soccer since 2001, when former clubs the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny squared off in the former Florida Derby. Those two sides played each other just 17 times in MLS before the league contracted prior to the 2002 season.
Facing the Expansion
Since joining Major League Soccer in 2015, the Lions hold a 2-1-1 record in Orlando against expansion clubs in their debut seasons. In 2019, City dominated expansion side FC Cincinnati with a 5-1 win at Exploria Stadium. In the Lions’ inaugural campaign, they pulled off a dramatic 1-1 draw against New York City FC in their first MLS match, as well as a 2-1 victory over the Pigeons that same season. Wednesday’s match with Inter Miami takes place just two days prior to their originally scheduled contest with their neighbors to the south, originally slated for July 10 at Exploria Stadium.
MLS is Back
Wednesday’s contest marks the start of the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The tournament will serve as the first league competition since the season was suspended on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Group Stage will consist of 16 consecutive days of matches followed by the Knockout Stage, which will compose four Round-of-16 matches, followed by the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and the MLS is Back Tournament Final on August 11 at 8 p.m. ET.
Throughout the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS has announced that club captains will wear a black armband with a graphic in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. Orlando City captain Nani will wear a Club-designed armband that pays tribute to the historic black neighborhood of Parramore where Exploria Stadium is located. The armband features the different streets and landmarks of Parramore. Additionally, players will also sport an MLS Unites patch, found underneath their number on the back of the jersey, where they can write the name of a person they wish to honor or a personal message.
- Inter Miami CF defender Brek Shea spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with Orlando City, appearing in 46 matches through two years.
- Inter Miami defender Mikey Ambrose was a member of the Lions’ 2016 squad, logging five appearances.
- Orlando City midfielder João Moutinho was teammates with Inter Miami midfielder Lee Nguyen during his 2018 rookie season at LAFC.
- Orlando City midfielder Robinho spent the first half of the 2019 season as a teammate of Miami midfielder Wil Trapp, while both were with the Columbus Crew.
- Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa spent five seasons under Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja at FC Dallas from 2014-18.
- The Inter Miami CF Communications Team.
- Chris Mueller is one goal away from 10 in MLS play.
- Benji Michel is one appearance away from 20 in MLS.
- João Mountinho is two appearances away from 20 for the Lions.
- Tesho Akindele is one start away from 25 for City.