Inter Miami welcomed 2,216 fans at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale

By Official Florida FC

Florida is fuschia.

Inter Miami beat Orlando City 2-1 on Saturday afternoon to vault into the discussion for a berth in the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs. The Herons’ win was their first in front of their home fans.

“Without a doubt our fans were our 12th man, they pushed us, helped us and were with us at all times,” Inter Miami manager Diego Alonso told the club’s website.” It was an incredible experience and I’m very happy to have been able to win and dedicate the victory to them.”

The COVID-19 pandemic meant Inter Miami played its previous seven matches at Inter Miami FC Stadium were played behind closed doors.

The Herons trailed after Daryl Dike’s fifth goal of the season gave Orlando City the lead in the 12th minute. The 20-year-old, who was named to the MLS 22 Under 22 team earlier in the week, shielded off Inter Miami’s Nico Figal and put the ball away with his left underneath the Herons’ onrushing keeper.

Orlando’s club-record 12-match unbeaten streak ended on Saturday in South Florida. The Lions (8-3-8, 32 points) could not get to intermission with the lead.

As was the case when Orlando City lost after scoring the opening goal — a 5-2 loss to Chicago on Oct. 6, 2019 — the Lions’ opponent equalized via an own goal.

Robin Jansson deflected Blaise Matuidi’s shot into his own net in the 45th minute.

Orlando City was fortunate to not concede an own goal earlier in the first half when central defender Antonio Carlos tried to clear the ball, three yards from his goal, only for it to deflect off an Orlando City player and out of touch for a corner kick.

Orlando City only put two shots on goal all afternoon. The first was Dike’s goal. The second arrived in the 88th minute from another promising prospect.

Nani curled in a ball to the back post. Tesho Akindele hit the ball back across the goalmouth, but no one was there to provide the finishing touch. Jansson was closest, but he couldn’t manage. The rebound fell to Benji Michel. Inter Miami goalie John McCarthy made his only save of the day to deny Michel.

Orlando’s inablity to put the game away cost them 90 seconds later.

Leandro González Pirez headed home Lewis Morgan’s corner kick in the 89th minute.

Pirez’s header marked the second straight week Orlando City allowed a goal in the final five minutes to drop points. It also means the season series between Florida’s two MLS clubs ends at two wins apiece. All four games were decided by one goal.

Saturday is the first time all season Inter Miami has inched above the red line in the Eastern Conference.

“[I feel] grateful. I think a lot of times we’ve been super super unlucky, or something doesn’t go our way and a guy would score there and we would lose that game 2-1,” McCarthy told the team’s website. “So, for us to go down and win 2-1, and score our first [indirect] set piece goal of the season, I think it was just like, ‘finally man.’ It’s a great feeling to have,” added McCarthy. “The guys pushed for 90 minutes, never gave up, and I think the fans really pushed us too. It’s a great feeling to have, we’re going to try to enjoy it for the next couple of hours and then onto Dallas.”

Inter Miami is 6-6-3 since returning from the MLS is Back Tournament in July. The Herons will need more than 1.3 points per game in its final three games if they want to guarantee a playoff berth in the club’s first year in MLS.

This year, 10 teams from the Eastern Conference and eight from the Western Conference advance to the MLS Cup playoffs.

Montreal (7-11-2, 23 points), Miami, Chicago (5-8-6, 21 points) and Atlanta United (5-11-4, 19 points) appear to be vying for two playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.

Further north on the Floridian peninsula, Orlando City has already clinched a playoff berth. The Lions are fourth in the Eastern Conference, and will likely remain there unless it beats Columbus (10-4-5, 35 points) on Nov. 4 and finishes the regular season with the same number of wins as the Crew.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference standings, Nashville (6-6-7, 25 points) is eighth. One way or another, Nashville may determine the order of the final four playoff berths in the Eastern Conference. Nashville faces Montreal on Tuesday, hosts Chicago on Halloween, hosts FC Dallas on Nov. 4 and travels to Orlando City for MLS Decision Day on Nov. 8.

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