ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) — Orlando City hosted regional rivals Inter Miami CF in a midweek MLS clash. Exploria Stadium filled out with 17,966 attendants for the clash. Both Florida teams are desperate for points at this stage in the season to ensure their status in the Eastern Conference, tying the game at 1-1.
The opening minutes were filled with moments of frustration for both sides. Inter Miami’s midfield trio of Matuidi, Gregore and Ulloa did well to disrupt play. However, Inter Miami were unable to capitalize on those moments due to their deeply entrenched backline. Orlando City had clearer chances on goal with a headed strike from Nani. Moments later, Andres Perea had a shot go clear over the top bar after a rebound.
The first half continued as a chippy affair as both sides committed a fair share of fouls. Inter Miami opted to neutralize Orlando with their numbers in the back, but in turn it stifled their offensive creativity as they were never able to attack with numbers. Mauricio Pereyra’s shot on goal in the 36′ minute did well to keep fans engaged, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to tip the scales. The first half ended with 15 total fouls, 10 against Miami as Orlando only got called for five.
Right before the end of the first half, delight turned into despair for a quick moment. Immediately after making contact to head the ball in for Orlando City, Antonio Carlos clashed heads with Kelvin Leerdam and he subsequently lost consciousness in the moments after his goal. Luckily, Orlando City medical staff were able to get him back to his senses quickly. But that would mean the end of play for Antonio Carlos after a scary few minutes on the field.
Turning Up the Heat
The second half saw Inter Miami come out with more urgency in front of goal. After a nice succession of moves from Robbie Robinson, he almost found the equalizer from a cheeky chip over Mason Stajduhar. Thankfully, Kyle Smith was able to slot in behind at the 11th hour and head away the strike.
The luck on defense would not continue for much longer. After some uninspired play in the midfield, Inter Miami found their glimmer of hope with a header. Former Arsenal and West Brom player Kieran Gibbs turned the tide for Miami as Orlando City’s keeper was left with little chance to react.
Orlando implemented their usual tactical substitutions in the second half in order to provide some variety in attack. But Inter Miami’s staunch defense combined with a lack of creativity in attack made it difficult. Just moments later, a Kyle Smith low cross into the box caused havoc for Nick Marsman.
Tesho Akindele was able to poach the ball while Marsman was still on the ground. It seemed like Orlando went up 2-1, but the goal was eventually ruled offside due to VAR replay.
Nicolas Vera is a sports reporter for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org