Herons hold off Orlando City in resumption of league play
By Official Florida FC
Inter Miami is victorious.
The Herons finally won their first Major League Soccer match on Saturday night at Inter Miami CF Stadium. Inter Miami (1-5-0, 3 points) beat Sunshine State rival Orlando City 3-2 to win its first league match — after falling short in its first five attempts.
“I’m very happy. The truth is the players deserved it. I think the staff, the owners, and above all the fans deserved a victory that we could dedicate to them,” Inter Miami manager Diego Alonso told the club’s website afterward. “I think that we’ve suffered too much in this time as we’ve deserved a lot more from our previous matches, and we hadn’t been able to get that win. We had to wait but I think we finally got it in the best way, playing in our home, winning in our debut here and making ourselves strong here.”
Inter Miami’s creative signings produced match-winning performances. Julián Carranza scored two goals. Designated Player Rodolfo Pizarro assisted Carranza’s opener, then added Inter Miami’s third in the 48th minute to give the hosts a 3-1 advantage.
Pizarro has three goals and an assist in 482 MLS minutes. As creative as the Mexican international has been, he may become even more productive once World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi finishes his transcontinental transfer and joins Inter Miami’s midfield.
Pizarro has been an inspired signing for the Herons. He was energetic in transition on Saturday night. His pressing and positioning meant Orlando City could not produce the neat, intricate passing movements that helped the Lions advance to the MLS is Back tournament final earlier this month.
Two things Orlando City (2-2-2, 8 points) was able to get away with during the MLS is Back tournament wound up biting them like thirsty mosquitoes on Saturday night in South Florida. Loose touches in the center of the park, and conceding the first goal.
Inter Miami pressed high up the field and pounced on any mistakes in midfield.
An Orlando City turnover led to Inter Miami’s first. The Herons had chances to add to their early advantage; but, strong defending kept them at bay.
FINDING SUNSHINE IN THE RAIN
From an Orlando City perspective, losses happen. The question is whether the Lions will let Saturday’s setback be a one-off or the beginning of another slide down the table.
Throughout its MLS history, Orlando City has followed up unbeaten runs with dire runs of form that steal any momentum gained through the unbeaten run. The most obvious example was in 2018 when the Lions won six straight games early in the season — only to produce nine points from their next 25 matches.
Daryl Dike scored his first professional goal in the 17th minute. The fifth overall selection in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft is only 20. But, if he can show the power, pace, determination and quick feet in attacking areas he may be the solution to Orlando’s goal-scoring issues.
In the nine competitive matches Orlando has played this calendar year prior to Saturday, its starting center forward has only scored in two of them. If Dike can constantly trouble defenses, it made bode well for the Lions as they try to remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Nani scored a consolation goal for the Lions. His 80th minute goal gives him four goals and three assists in all competitions this year.
As for the victors, there was no underplaying Saturday’s win.
Inter Miami became the first expansion team in MLS history to lose each of its first five games. Then again, no expansion side in league history faced the challenges Inter Miami did in its inaugural season.
Whether it was playing reigning Supporter’s Shield winners LAFC at Banc of California Stadium in its opener, going down to 10 men on the road against D.C. United in March or a pandemic forcing the club to wait four months to play competitve soccer again, Inter Miami has waited for the moment that arrived late Saturday night.
“I’m very happy to get the first win as a team. Luckily we got it here in our first match in our home stadium,” Carranza told the team’s website. “I think we deserved to celebrate, we deserved to win points and I think that today we worked hard to earn it.”
Inter Miami will try to keep its momentum at home against Atlanta United (3-3-0, 9 points) on Aug. 26. The Five Stripes blanked Nashville SC 2-0 on Saturday night to recover from a shocking spell of no wins and no goals at the MLS is Back tournament.
Orlando City returns to Central Florida to host Nashville SC (1-3-1, 4 points) on Wednesday night. The expansion team may be the ideal tonic for the Lions, considering they have been shut out three times in five MLS matches.