Phil Neville has joked Inter Miami “are not playing FIFA 22 anymore” after pulling off a huge transfer coup by landing Alejandro Pozuelo from MLS rivals Toronto FC.
The 2020 MVP scored 30 goals and assisted 34 in 100 appearances across all competitions for Toronto, who have received $150,000 from Inter in General Allocation Money.
Pozuelo brings much-needed creativity to the Herons’ attack and has given everyone involved with the club a much-needed boost ahead of facing Orlando City SC on Saturday.
“It’s not just playing FIFA 22 anymore. We’re actually going through processes with people,” Neville said.
“A lot of hours, a lot of scouting, we’re watching a lot of football, we’re talking to a lot of people and we’re bringing the right people and characters to the team.
“Certain players stand out when you’re an opposition manager and he was one. I think about (Hany) Mukhtar, Carles Gil, those levels of players that are game-changers.
“You’re bringing in a certain type of player which sends a real strong statement about where we want to take this football club and this team.”
Pozuelo is awaiting a visa due to moving between a Canadian and American club, meaning he is unlikely to debut against Orlando at Exploria Stadium.
Whereas Inter have found some form in recent weeks, Orlando have lost back-to-back matches and are now just three points better off than their intrastate rivals.
“They have had a good period and are getting good results,” Orlando head coach Oscar Pareja said. “It seems like they’re finding some stability in the way they do things.
“That’s something we recognize, but we’re trying to be ready and be prepared and worry about what we can do.
“Our training and our preparation has been the same with not much time (between matches), but we’re trying to organize and be active.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Orlando City – Ercan Kara
Pareja’s side shipped five home goals against D.C. United in their previous outing, something which simply cannot be repeated against their neighbors this weekend. The more positive spin on that 5-3 loss is that they scored three goals themselves, with Kara now up to seven goals for the season in 18 appearances, 13 of those being starts.
Inter Miami – Damion Lowe
For all the talk of Pozuelo’s arrival, Inter defender Lowe deserves some loving after being named in the MLS Team of the Week for the third time this season. The Jamaica international has been a near constant this term, playing 1,320 minutes for Inter, which includes four clean sheets and a team-leading 33 successful interceptions.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the eighth meeting between MLS’ two Florida teams, Orlando City and Inter Miami, with the Lions holding a slight edge (W3 D2 L2). The last two meetings have both ended in draws, including a 0-0 in the last contest, the first time either team kept a clean sheet against the other.
– City suffered a 5-3 loss to D.C. United, the Lions’ fifth home defeat of the season after losing three regular season home games over the previous two seasons combined. The five goals Orlando allowed equaled the most they have conceded in a home MLS match (five v Chicago in October 2019).
– Inter have lost only one of their last seven matches (W3 D3) following a 1-1 draw in Dallas on Monday. The draw was just the fourth time Miami have avoided defeat in their last 14 away matches (W2 D2 L10), and ended a four-match scoreless run away from home.
– D.C. United’s Taxi Fountas scored three of D.C. United’s five goals in Orlando on Monday, making him just the second visiting player to score a hat-trick against Orlando City in MLS play after Clint Dempsey did so for Seattle Sounders in August 2016.
– Leonardo Campana came off the bench to score the equalizing goal against Dallas. It was the fourth straight Miami goal from substitutes, with five of the Herons’ last six MLS goals have coming from substitutes.