In their third match in eight days, Orlando City took to the road to DRV PNK Stadium to take on Inter Maimi — and it was Nani’s efforts that led the Lions to a 2-1 victory on Friday night.
“Very happy, very proud,” Oscar Pareja said following the match. “Three points, that means a lot for us is it’s a derby. This is a game that we wanted to win, playing in their place here. We haven’t done it, and the first half after a long week, we felt it. We have heavy legs, and I think the boys did an excellent job overcoming that part, all for the players. It’s incredible the effort and they deserve it.”
Through the first 20 minutes of the match, it was the home side that was on the front foot. Orlando struggled to play out of the back as Miami pressed numbers forward, forcing the Lions into multiple turnovers.
As the first half wore on, Orlando began to work their way into the match and build some momentum. However, Miami held firm defensively, only allowing a handfull of half chances.
At the half, the Lions changed up the tactics by bringing in Benji Michel and Chris Mueller to get more play on the wings.
Throughout the second half, Orlando looked to be more dangerous as they went on, but substitutions from Miami, bringing on Gonzalo Higuain and Rodolfo Pizzaro changed the game for the home side.
With Higuain’s first few minutes on the pitch, he gave Miami the lead from a long distance strike in the 67th minute, beating Lions keeper Brandon Austin.
As the crowd level ramped up after the goal, it took just six minutes for Orlando to respond through Chris Mueller.
A long ball overtop from Robin Jansson was crossed in on a first time effort by Nani, who found Mueller on the back post to tap in, leveling the match at 1-1.
“It was kind of a back and forth game where we were a little bit pinned in,” Chris Mueller said after the match. “I felt like we just needed some energy and a little bit of intensity to come into the team on the road. It’s difficult sometimes when you’re in these environments to go up and get on the ball because the other team has their energy in the first half, they want to get the ball moving.”
“They want to be in there with the fans, they have the environment they have the atmosphere, and for us it was easy just to sit back a little bit and it was tough for us to get a little bit of momentum going forward. But once we eased into the game, the second half we came back. We came out really strong. We were moving the ball pretty well, finding some good spaces had some good spells of possession. I thought that there was a decent amount of space to work with for me, just moving around in there trying to find the ball and make things happen and thankfully we came out with the win.”
Another six minutes later, Orlando took the lead through a bit of magic from Nani. After receiving the ball on the left side, the winger cut in on his right and curled a ball between two defenders and into the top right corner, beating John McCarthy to give Orlando the lead at 2-1.
With a few more defensive subs from Oscar Pareja, the Lions saw out the game for their third win in eight days.
The Lions (6-1-3, 21 points) return back home to take on the only club to have beaten them this season, the New York Red Bulls, on Saturday July 3 at 7:30 pm.
67′ – Gonzalo Higuain, assisted by Jay Chapman (MIA)
73′ – Chris Mueller, assisted by Nani and Robin Jansson (ORL)
80′ – Nani, assisted by Benji Michel (ORL)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Brandon Austin; Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Michael Halliday; Andres Perea, Junior Urso (Uri Rosell, 64′), Silvester van der Water (Benji Michel, 45′), Mauricio Pereyra (Chris Mueller, 45′), Nani (c) (Joey DeZart, 83′); Daryl Dike (Tesho Akindele, 64′)
Substitutes: Mason Stajduhar, Rio Hope-Gund, Alexander Alvarado, Matheus Aias