MLS is Back: Nani leads comeback as Orlando City downs Inter Miami in first-ever meeting

For the first time since August 14, 2019, Orlando City was the victor in the inaugural MLS is Back Tournament match against in-state rival Inter Miami CF.

After a scoreless first half, Orlando conceded early in the second, but scored late, thanks to Nani, to pull out a 2-1 victory deep in stoppage time.

“I want to tell everybody how proud we are of the players,” head coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “The effort and the job that they have done through this last period. They are a tremendous group and tonight they showed that they are very strong inside.”

“We are proud with the victory, the first ever in the history of the clubs and we are proud,” added Pareja.

The first 45 minutes seemed very much like a feeling-out period from both sides. Neither had played a proper game since March and there were moments that looked dangerous, but the real action didn’t start until the second half.

After Juan Agudelo pounced on a ball just two minutes after the teams returned to the field for the second half, Orlando was looking for a way back. To that point, they had held possession and pace of the game, but staring down a 1-0 deficit forced them to change things up. Oscar Pareja would bring in Tesho Akindele and Sebas Mendez to change up the tactics in the 63rd minute.

It would take another 20 minutes for Orlando to equalize through Chris Mueller. Nani took on Miami defender Dylan Nealis, beating him down the side and crossing an inch-perfect ball for Mueller to poke home.

“A lot of the work had been done by Luis (Nani),” Mueller said of the goal. “He had taken a guy down one-on-one and put in a fabulous ball to the back post. I just had to hustle and make sure I got there to get some good contact with it and put the ball in the net so we could get back in this game, and that’s exactly what we did.”

After an injury scare to Miami’s Andreś Reyes, star signing for the new side Rodolfo Pizarro came into the game. The injury would add time to the end of the match, which would play a big factor late in the game.

Orlando held almost 60% possession throughout the match, along with leading in shots and passing accuracy. At 1-1, the game began to open up a bit more, with both sides meandering into dangerous attacking areas, but in the sixth minute of ten allotted for added time, Orlando was able to break the deadlock.

With Nani starting a foray into the attack, fullback Joao Moutinho made an overlapping run to the outside. As Tesho Akindele found Moutinho, he put in a dangerous cross that deflected off of Miami defender Nicolás Figal and into the path of Nani to strike home and give Orlando the lead.

Orlando will now play game two of the MLS is Back tournament next Tuesday, July 14 against New York City FC. Kickoff for that match is set for 10:30 p.m.

Scoring summary

47′ – Juan Agudelo (MIA)

70′ – Chris Mueller, assisted by Nani (ORL)

90+7′ – Nani (ORL)

Here’s how the Lions lined up 

Orlando City XI (4-4-2): Pedro Gallese; João Moutinho, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Ruan; Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 83′), Uri Rosell, Junior Urso (Sebastián Méndez, 63′), Mauricio Pereyra (Andres Perea, 83′), Nani (Rodrigo Schlegel, 97′); Dom Dwyer (Tesho Akindele, 63′)

Orlando bench: Brian Rowe, Alex De John, Kyle Smith, Daryl Dike, David Loera, Robinho, Santiago Patiño 

For more soccer news, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer


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