Orlando City will temporarily take a break from MLS action to welcome Arsenal to the Exploria Stadium for a friendly battle in the FC Series on Wednesday evening. The hosts played out a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United at the weekend, while the Gunners began their pre-season tour of the United States with a 2-0 success over Everton. The spring and summer months have brought a string of inconsistent results for Orlando in the Eastern Conference, as the Florida-based outfit were held to a second successive 1-1 draw against Atlanta United at the weekend. A 10th minute opener from Mauricio Pereyra was cancelled out by Juan Sanchez Purata in a dissatisfactory result for Orlando, whose playoff bid still remains well and truly alive after 21 games of the 2022 campaign.
With 30 points taken from a possible 63, Orlando are still sitting pretty in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but not since April have the hosts managed to march to consecutive MLS victories, and they have won just one of their last four in the division. A 1-0 success over Inter Miami back on July 10 ended a dismal nine-game run at home without a clean sheet for Oscar Pareja’s outfit, whose last three draws at the Exploria Stadium have all come in friendlies, but Arsenal will be in no mood to share the spoils here. The stark absence of a number of youngsters perplexed Arsenal fans when Mikel Arteta’s pre-season tour squad was announced earlier this month, but those present in Baltimore witnessed the Gunners’ experienced crop ease past Everton 2-0 for a third successive pre-season win.
After bagging a brace against Nuremberg on his debut, new arrival Gabriel Jesus fired home the opener against Everton in his first start following a sublime touch before turning provider for Bukayo Saka to fire home a second before the half-time whistle blew. Three goals in two games has already seen Jesus endear himself to the Arsenal faithful – not to mention his tribute to Eddie Nketiah’s phone-call celebration – and Arteta’s side are now three for three in a productive pre-season period. Orlando City shot-stopper Mason Stajduhar remains out of contention for the time being with a jaw injury alongside ACL victim Gaston Gonzalez, but Adam Grinwis and Joao Moutinho were both fit enough for places on the bench on Saturday.
Pareja may be hesitant to name a full-strength side for a friendly match given what is at stake in MLS at present, but key men such as Pererya and Facundo Torres should both expect to start against Premier League opposition. The forgotten man Alexandre Pato could lead the line for Orlando on Wednesday, as number one Pedro Gallese retains possession of the gloves. As for Arsenal, the Gunners just cannot seem to escape the injury curse, as Emile Smith Rowe, Ben White, Kieran Tierney, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Fabio Vieira were all forced to miss the win over Everton. None of the quintet is believed to be nursing anything serious, but it is difficult to imagine Arteta risking any of them for Wednesday, especially with Tierney and Tomiyasu’s track record in the fitness department.
William Saliba could therefore partner Gabriel Magalhaes at the heart of defence once again, and Matt Turner is also in with a chance of another start back in his homeland after Aaron Ramsdale was absent from the Everton win. Arteta also raised eyebrows by switching to a back three for the second half against Everton, but a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation should be fielded from the off here.
Orlando City possible starting lineup:
Gallese; Ruan, Schlegel, Jansson, Smith; Araujo, Urso; Torres, Pereyra, Mulraney; Pato
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Turner; Cedric, Saliba, Gabriel, Tavares; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Jesus