MATCH PREVIEW: Arsenal vs. Orlando City

Arsenal will make its first trip to the U.S. since 2019 and the first to Orlando. Leaders in FA Cup trophies with 14, the Gunners will arrive in America after closing out the 2021-22 season winning five of their last seven games, including road wins against London rivals Chelsea and West Ham as well as home victories against Manchester United and Everton to finish fifth. Arsenal will compete in the Europa League, a competition they’ve appeared in during four of the last five seasons, finishing runners-up in 2018-19 to Chelsea. In 2020-21, the Gunners lost in the semifinal to Villareal, the eventual champion.

Orlando City is in the middle of a historic cup run this season, awaiting the semifinals against New York Red Bulls July 27th at Exploria Stadium. Orlando entered in the third round, topping the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 on second-half goals from Alexandre Pato and Junior Urso. In the round of 32, the Lions topped the Philadelphia Union 2-1 on second-half goals from Ercan Kara and Andres Perea. In the round of 16, Orlando topped cross-state rivals Inter Miami. After a scoreless 90 minutes, Facundo Torres’ extra time goal forced penalties, which the Lions won 4-2 after a Mason Stajduhar save and a Miami miss. In the quarterfinals, Orlando came from behind again, this time on Rodrigo Schlegel’s stoppage-time equalizer, and won 6-5 on penalties. Pedro Gallese was the hero after he stopped the final PK to send the Lions two steps closer to the first trophy in club history.

With two games in Orlando, the Gunners will rely on Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka, two of the best center midfielders in the game and the most experienced players in the Arsenal side to lead the young Gunners. Buyako Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Martin Ødegaard, Eddie Nketiah, and Gabriel Martinelli, all under the age of 22, were among the top scorers last season, boding well for the coming years.

For Orlando City, the game will present a much-needed jolt as the Lions try to regain their league form. Orlando is 2-4-2 over the last 8 league games, which became a balancing act between league and cups. With four games against playoff teams from a year ago over the next five games, the Lions will look to use the match against Arsenal to prepare for a difficult second half on top of a chance to secure the club’s first hardware.

Arsenal will meet Orlando City in the Florida Cup Clash of Nations July 20th at Exploria Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT.

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