Portuguese international Luis Nani involved in both of the Lions’ goals.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (July 10, 2020) — The 2020 MLS season resumed Wednesday night with a first-ever meeting between the two MLS organisations in the state of Florida. It was the opening game in the MLS is Back tournament, and Orlando City took the first victory in this series with a 2-1 result over Inter Miami, due in part to a star showing from Nani. A frustrating loss for the Rosanegro for sure in the first rendition of “La Vacación.”
The loss in the competition opener at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex dropped Inter Miami to 0-3 in its inaugural season, and left the first-year club in a world of hurt. Overall, the game resembled what one might eventually expect in future games between these two in-state teams — the two sides combined for four yellow cards and 29 fouls.
The game marked the first appearance for Miami’s Julián Carranza, who was one of the teams’s first two signings one year ago. However, Carranza came on as a second half substitute, with manager Diego Alonso opting for Juan Agudelo in the striker role, something that may change in the next game.
After a scoreless first half, some good team play resulted in Agudelo giving Internacional the first goal in the game, scoring with a close-range tap in in the 47th minute, after being on the receiving end of a low cross from Victor Ulloa, who in turn had combined with Matías Pellegrini in the 18-yard box.
A fear-invoking moment arose in the 51st minute when Miami centre-back Andrés Reyes went down after a clash with Orlando striker Dom Dwyer. The two clashed on several plays in the game. This time, they came together and a stray elbow from Dwyer caught Reyes in the throat. Reyes needed to be stretchered off and was subbed out for playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro, who started the match on the bench. (Reyes has since returned to the team hotel.)
That incident prompted 10 minutes of second-half stoppage time, and changed the dynamics of the game. “It had a massive impact, a massive impact on the rest of the game,” said Miami goalkeeper Luis Robles. “Our defensive unit is already thin as is and for us to lose a guy like Andres — who is in the middle of the park, who is having a great game — it completely changed the entire complexion of the game.”
With only 20 minutes from full-time, Inter Miami was still hanging on to the 1-0 lead and it looked plausible that the first victory in team history was approaching. But it was at that moment when Luis Nani made the difference. The Portuguese great applied a burst of speed down the left flank and drove a cross that picked up by Chris Mueller, who was able to beat defender Ben Sweat to the ball, sliding it past Robles at the right corner.
Although Inter Miami tried to respond, their undoing came during the 10 minutes of stoppage time that were added due largely to the Reyes injury.Nani wasn’t done. The Lions’ Designated Player made sure all three points would remain in Central Florida in the 97th minute, poking home a goal after a cross fell to him from 10 yards out after being deflected. It was an opportunistic finish to be sure, but Nani made sure to take full advantage of it as he tucked away a dramatic winner for Orlando with a point-blank shot in the box.
Looking back at the game, the players in the Rosanegro midfield really struggled in the face of Orlando’s pressure to develop passing combinations. The starting formation was also defensively oriented which, when combined with the lack of a high-level striker, limited Miami’s goal scoring potential.
Post Game Reflections
Inter Miami’s frustration over the result was on display during the postgame interviews.
“It hurts. Everybody is pretty sad right now,” said Inter Miami forward Juan Agudelo, who gave Miami the lead in the 47th minute. “To be honest, to be up 1-0, to understand how hard we worked to be up 1-0, and to give up a goal in stoppage time, it’s tough to come in and do a press conference after that.”
Goalkeeper and team captain Luis Robles opined that togetherness will be the key to get Inter Miami’s fortunes to turn around.
“For us to climb out of this we have to do it together, one game at a time, one training session at a time,” he said. “The only way that we’re going to be able to do it is sticking together, believing in what we’re building here and maintaining great spirit because we have an incredible locker room. The chemistry in the locker room is phenomenal. I believe it’s on that foundation that we can change this, that we can start getting points, that we can start getting wins. It’s the fortitude that comes from within the locker room that’s going to be able to change the tide.”
“We’re going to take a lot of positives from this match and as we examine it and evaluate the game, we’ll figure out how we can continue to be better because that’s what we have to do. We have to improve each and every week, with each coming game.”
Angry over losing the game, the team also was critical of the officiating, in particular Rubiel Vazquez, the head referee. “It’s a very, very poor officiating from him today,” said Inter Miami goalkeeper and captain Luis Robles.
“If the referee is going to give them the type of rope to play that way, he’s going to be very impactful. Yet you can see in the first half there were several moments where I felt that the fouls were very, very hard coming in from behind, and yet (Vazquez) continues to say that they were soft fouls, he continues to say that they weren’t strong, that they weren’t necessarily even a foul, and yet everyone on the field could see it.”
Manager Diego Alonso was also noticeably upset. The head coach answered most of the questions he got during his post-game video conference with very short responses, and gave indirect responses to several enquiries. Alonso said more than once that the team would look to improve in the next game in order to grab that elusive first victory in club history. Agudelo mirrored that sentiment, saying “There are lots of positives we can take from this game,” said Agudelo in Spanish. “But it’s also time to win.”
On Orlando City’s side, head coach Oscar Pareja said “There was a lot of joy out there tonight, and I’m proud of that. It was the first game back and it was difficult but I saw character from the players and they very well deserved the triumph today.”
Orlando City’s star Nani reflected on the strange quietness of the game without fans, drums, and noise. “It is true, there were not fans there,” Nani said. “But for the ones who love football, you don’t need to pay attention to the fans. Obviously when they are in the stadium, you can feel the excitement, the noise. But today, we made the noise.”
Agents of Change
Before the game started, both teams offered a silent and emotional pre-game demonstration in the tumultuous aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. Orlando City’s Júnior Urso fought back tears as the two teams knelt at midfield for eight minutes and forty-six seconds while encircled by members of the league’s Black Players for Change Coalition — all of whom raised black-gloved fists reminiscent of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics.
|90’+11′||End Regular Time|
|90’+10′||Oriol Rosell (Orlando City SC) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.|
|90’+8′||On: Rodrigo Schlegel|Off: Nani|
|90’+7′||Goal! Orlando City SC 2, Inter Miami CF 1. Nani (Orlando City SC) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner.|
|87′||Jhegson Méndez (Orlando City SC) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.|
|84′||Julián Carranza (Inter Miami CF) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.|
|83′||Substitution, Orlando City SC. Benji Michel replaces Chris Mueller.|
|83′||Substitution, Orlando City SC. Andrés Perea replaces Mauricio Pereyra.|
|79′||Substitution, Inter Miami CF. Jay Chapman replaces Wil Trapp.|
|79′||Substitution, Inter Miami CF. Luis Argudo replaces Lewis Morgan.|
|79′||Substitution, Inter Miami CF. Lee Nguyen replaces Matías Pellegrini.|
|73′||Substitution, Inter Miami CF. Julián Carranza replaces Juan Agudelo.|
|70′||Goal! Orlando City SC 1, Inter Miami CF 1. Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Nani with a cross.|
|63′||Substitution, Orlando City SC. Jhegson Méndez replaces Júnior Urso.|
|63′||Substitution, Orlando City SC. Tesho Akindele replaces Dom Dwyer.|
|58′||Substitution, Inter Miami CF. Rodolfo Pizarro replaces Andrés Reyes.|
|47′||Goal! Orlando City SC 0, Inter Miami CF 1. Juan Agudelo (Inter Miami CF) left footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Victor Ulloa.|
|45′||Start 2nd Half|
|40′||Ben Sweat (Inter Miami CF) is shown the yellow card for hand ball.|
|38′||João Moutinho (Orlando City SC) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.|
|–||First Half begins.|
47′ – MIA – Juan Agudelo
70′ – ORL – Chris Mueller
97′ – ORL – Nani
- ORL: Tuesday, July 14 vs. NYCFC (8:30 pm ET | TUDN in US, TSN in Canada)
- MIA: Tuesday, July 14 vs. Philadelphia Union (10:30 pm ET | TUDN in US, TSN in Canada)
Side Notes – #FútbolFashion
The Rosanegro were pretty much blanco, electing to go with an all-white kit, in a change up from the pale pink shorts they wore for their first two games. Also missing were the embossed herons that appear on the official shirts sold at retail outlets. Another new addition were left and right sleeve sponsors. Baptist Health appearing on the left sleeve and Coca Cola on the right. MLS recently changed its rules to allow for the additional sleeve sponsor in place of the team colour-coordinated MLS patch, in order to increase revenue.
Cover Photo: Orlando player Nani (right) screams in celebration after scoring the winning goal during the Inter Miami versus Orlando City MLS soccer match at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)
Orlando player Ruan (2) and Miami player Matias Pellegrini (11) battle for the ball during the Inter Miami versus Orlando City MLS soccer match at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. The match is part of the MLS is Back tournament. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel) (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)