To kick off a tournament in a bubble, MLS decided to start with a new rivalry. Orlando City SC, labeled as the host, took on newcomers Inter Miami FC. The two teams from Group A of the MLS is back tournament had fireworks for sure. Orlando came out the victor winning 2-1.
The feeling before the match
The feel from the ESPN sports complex in Disney World before the match was one of anticipation. Teams were preparing in portable trailers just outside the field where the match was taking place. There was a big blue screen on the opposite end of the cameras to display adds and live videos of fans watching the match. There were cameras on drones, no artificial crowd noise and a giant virtual Adidas logo was on the field. As the players took the pitch, the commentary team, which was not onsite, mentioned a moment of silence before the match to pay homage to Black Lives Matter.
As the moment of silence began, Black Players Coalition and MLS made a powerful statement. Miami and Orlando players stood around the center circle and then over 100 black MLS players from other MLS teams came on to the field for a moment of silence. The powerful statement was a great way for MLS to mark their return. My words do not do it justice, take a look at it here:
As the match was set to begin, both Orlando and Miami players were poised to shake off the rust and play a meaningful match.
1st Half jitters
As the game began it was evident players felt some jitters. There were a lot of weren’t dribbles, loss of possession, and passes that fell short. The two teams began to feel each other out and looked for in-roads for chances on goal.
Miami had the first great chance a striker Juan Agudelo was served a ball into the box. Agudelo met the ball but pulled the shot high over the crossbar. Not too long after that chance was missed, Orlando came to life in their attack.
Some fancy passing from Orlando City allowed for Chris Mueller to be in on goal. He tried to put the ball past Miami keeper Luis Robles, but he got a hand to it. The ball fell right to the feet of Orlando forward Dom Dwyer, but he could not get his feet right to put the ball into the open net and the ball was cleared.
As the first half widdled to an end, both teams looked to be on the verge of finding a goal. As the halftime whistle blew, both teams went to their makeshift locker rooms to regroup.
2nd half goals
As the second half kicked off, there was a slight change that made an immediate impact. Inter Miami head coach Diego Alonso moved away from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-5-2. This allowed Miami to have more free-flowing players in the middle of the pitch. The payoff was almost instant. Victor Ulloa and Matías Pellegrini made darting runs into the box, played a one-two off of each other, then Ulloa picked up his head and passed the ball across the box to Juan Agudelo, who was not marked. Agudelo tapped home the chance and Miami had the lead in the 47th minute.
The game started to open up after the first goal, as both teams found their footing. As time went on, you could see the wearing effects it had on both sides. When possession was lost, the other team was able to counter and if they could find the appropriate passes and spaces on the field they could get a chance on goal. This is how Orlando was able to find the tying goal. Maimi gave Nani too much room on the left-wing. He burned by the defender and played a low cross across the box to the far post. Chris Mueller met the ball and hit a shot that ricocheted off of keeper Luis Robles and made its way into the top right corner of the net. The match was tied in the 70th minute.
The last 20 minutes of the match was filled with strategic substitutions. In this tournament and for the rest of the 2020 season teams will be allotted five substitutions instead of the traditional three. This also expands the benches from seven to 12 players. Teams have three chances to make their five substitutions and that is what both Orlando and Miami did. Miami brought on star players Rodolfo Pizarro and Lee Nguyen and they changed the game but failed to find the finishing touch to get a second goal. The game was winding down it looked like the match was going to end in a draw. Then 10 minutes of extra time was added.
The long period of extra time was added due to a long injury timeout. Miamis Andrés Reyes caught a flying arm from Orlando’s Dom Dwyer that resulted in Reyes needing to be stretchered off the field. In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Orlando was on the attack. A failed cross popped out to left-back João Moutinho. He put a cross into the box towards Nani. It was too high for him, but the ball bounced off of some Miami players and fell to the feet of Nani. No Inter Miami players tracked Nani, and the Portuguese star slotted home the chance to give Orlando the win!
This first match had everything, hopefully, the rest of the tournament has just as much fun packed into the matches.
Man of the Match
Orlando captain Nani won man of the match honors he was a handful on the left wing all match. His assist and game winning goal gives Orlando a major three points in group A
What’s on deck for Day 2?
This morning, the Philadelphia Union take on NYCFC in Group A action. This match kicks off at 9:00 am, don’t miss the action
Later in the evening, the Montreal Impact take on New England Revolution. This will be the first match of teams in Group C; it kicks off at 8:00 pm.
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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports