After beating Everton in Baltimore last weekend, the second leg of our US tour sees us head to Florida to take on Orlando City, in what will be the first meeting between us and the Lions.
With that in mind, here is all the information you need about our opponents’ past, how they’ve fared so far in Major League Soccer this term and what Mikel Arteta’s men should expect to face on Wednesday night.
Having previously played for four seasons in the USL Pro, Orlando are currently in their eighth season in MLS having been granted a franchise in 2015. After taking time to find their feet, the club reached the play-offs in each of the last two seasons, an upturn in form that coincided with the arrival of Oscar Pareja as manager.
Over the years, the club has fielded many familiar faces including former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka who was their first designated player. Portuguese winger Nani spent two seasons at Exploria Stadium before departing at the end of last season, while former AC Milan star Alexandre Pato is part of the current squad.
The Lions play at Exploria Stadium, which opened its doors in 2017. It has a capacity of 25,500 and features seating on three sides, with a large terrace area on the other known as The Wall, where their most passionate supporters watch proceedings.
Exploria Stadium regularly hosts men’s and women’s US international games, and was a venue for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Initially, the team began life in MLS playing at the Citrus Bowl, now known as Camping World Stadium where we will take on Chelsea on Saturday night.
The current squad
Pato may be the standout name, but Orlando boast a number of other international stars, none more so than Peru’s number one Pedro Gallese who has been a hero between the posts for the Lions over the past few campaigns, earning himself the nickname 'El Pulpo' - The Octopus.
In an attempt to bolster their attack ahead of this season, Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara arrived as designated players having been capped by Uruguay and Austria respectively, while another Uruguayan, Mauricio Pereyra, is the team’s captain and playmaker.
Brazilian right-back Ruan is a bundle of energy going forward, and Robin Jansson is solid in the heart of defence, often partnered by Rodrigo Schlegel - a cult hero after being forced to go in goal in a middle of a penalty shootout during the 2020 playoffs and saving the crucial kick.
The season so far
Pareja's team currently occupy fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, having won eight and drawn six of their 21 games so far. However, they have only scored 26 times in that time, with Kara top scoring with seven.
They are unbeaten in their last three MLS games though, having secured a Florida derby win over Miami before credible draws away at Colorado Rapids and Atlanta United, and have reached the semi-finals of the US Open Cup which has seen them paired with New York Red Bulls next week.
Links with Arsenal
In the club’s second season in MLS, they brought in former Gunners loanee Julio Baptista who scored six times in 25 appearances in his single season in Florida.
Our ex-midfielder Paul Shaw is a prominent figure in the Lions’ youth setup and has helped to bring through talent into the first-team for a number of years, including a stint as their under-23 manager. He also commentates on the team’s matches.
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