The streak is over. Orlando City’s 12-match unbeaten streak came to an end as the law of averages caught up with the Lions in multiple ways in a 2-1 loss at Inter Miami. The Lions (8-3-8, 32 points) conceded on a late corner kick — Miami’s 12th of the match — to fall behind after squandering a golden opportunity to take the lead at the other end.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s header in the 89th minute was the difference after a Daryl Dike goal and an own goal off Robin Jansson had the teams knotted up after the opening half. Orlando City and Miami (6-11-3, 21 points) split this season’s four Tropic Thunder meetings, with each winning twice — Inter twice at home and the Lions once at home and in the MLS is Back Tournament bubble. It was Orlando’s first loss in 2020 when scoring first.
Orlando’s 12-game unbeaten streak now turns into a four-match winless skid (0-1-3) as the Lions failed to find a second goal in the match for the fourth consecutive game and the fifth in six outings.
“At the end, you know, it’s very dramatic for us because it happens on a moment when we had a great opportunity to unbalance the game,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match.
Pareja had Pedro Gallese back in goal to start this match, behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez returned to the midfield, along with Junior Urso, Andres Perea, and Chris Mueller, with Nani and Dike leading the attack.
Orlando started the game brightly and that paid off with an early goal after a corner, a couple of half chances, and a Nani free kick just over the bar. Carlos played a fantastic long ball for Dike and the rookie just out-muscled Nicolas Figal and broke in on John McCarthy’s goal all alone, slotting home the opening goal — his fifth of the season — in the 12th minute.
Miami ramped up its pressure after falling behind but the Lions dealt reasonably well with it, continuing to get into dangerous areas, but the crosses on this day weren’t clinical enough. Nani crossed a set piece delivery right at McCarthy in the 15th minute and Ruan fizzed a cross from open play behind everyone in the 28th.
A minute later, the Lions almost conceded an own goal after a poor Mendez touch in the box fell in front of goal. Carlos went to clear it but it hit a teammate and ricocheted toward his own net, but it sailed wide for a corner.
The rain started to make things a bit precarious around the half-hour mark. There were several odd deflections and controlling the ball became difficult. Miami started trying shots from just outside the top of the area, including a shot that required a sprawling Gallese save in the 33rd minute, just seconds after the hydration break.
Six minutes later, it was Ben Sweat sneaking inside, taking a pass and firing, but El Pulpo was again up to the task.
A few minutes later, Mueller came to the rescue with an overhead goal-line clearance on a Miami set piece, as the Herons racked up corners late in the first half. Then Gallese made a comfortable save on a Lewis Morgan free kick in the 43rd minute.
The Miami breakthrough came late in the half, just after a seemingly obvious foul on Dike went unpunished. The big rookie was sent sprawling by the Miami defense, which allowed the hosts to counter. At the other end, the ball pinballed around the area with neither team able to hit or collect it cleanly and it ended up with Blaise Matuidi, who sent in a harmless-looking shot that Jansson seemed to have lined up but the ball squirted backward off his foot and past Gallese in the 43rd minute to tie the game.
“It’s tough, you know, because you know he feels down on himself, because he scored an own goal, but you know it’s not his fault,” Smith said. “It happens in soccer. It happens to everyone.”
It was an unlucky break, but with the volume of chances Miami was getting and the weather conditions, it wasn’t too surprising when it happened. After Nani left another free kick delivery too close to goal, and a late free kick for Miami, the teams went to the break all even at 1-1.
Miami led in shots (13-4), shots on goal (3-1), corners (9-1), and passing accuracy (86%-83%), with Orlando keeping more of the possession (51.4%-48.6%). The Herons got a lucky bounce, but did enough to earn being level at the break, handling the wet, windy conditions much better than the Lions.
Figal nearly put Miami ahead just after the break on a set piece, pulling Mueller down without a call and then sending his free header wide in the 47th minute.
Ruan got up the right side just a minute later but again his cross was poor and McCarthy caught it.
Miami came close again in the 53rd when Julian Carranza got onto a good cross from Morgan and slammed it off the crossbar.
Both teams started to substitute after that, with much of the play between the penalty areas. A major talking point happened around the 80th minute when a cross from second-half sub Tesho Akindele appeared to come off Matuidi’s arm. After video review, the no-call stood. Akindele said he saw the play clearly but perhaps the play occurred just outside the area, hence no penalty being given.
“It was definitely a handball,” Akindele said. “I don’t know if he was inside the box or not. I think he was outside of the box, and that’s why it didn’t come back, but to me it was definitely a handball. They didn’t call it in the moment so they can’t go back (and award a free kick).”
Orlando started getting more opportunities just before Miami’s game-winner, as time wound down. Nani had a shot blocked in the 85th minute. Benji Michel was first to the ball but his cross was blocked behind for a corner. Akindele had a shot blocked moments later for another corner. That should have led to a go-ahead goal by Orlando.
A bouncing ball in the area fell for Jansson on the set piece but he couldn’t direct it on goal. Instead, it cut back across the face of goal and deflected out to Michel. Although McCarthy was on the ground, Orlando’s Homegrown fired his shot straight into the prone goalkeeper with almost the entirety of the net open to him in the 88th minute. Try not to cringe at the miss or the pronunciation of Michel’s name in this clip.
“The ball was bouncing around their box and we were unlucky (not) to get that goal,” Smith said. “When we get those opportunities to score, it’s important for us to be clinical.”
A minute later, the Lions conceded late for the second straight match. Perea cleared a ball out over the end line to give up the corner kick. There was a miscommunication about assignments as Morgan took the set piece, with Urso passing off Gonzalez Pirez to Carlos, who already had a man. Urso ended up near the top of the area with no one to mark as Gonzalez Pirez sent his free header past Gallese for the winner.
“You know, I take the responsibility on the matchups and the way we have to defend it,” Pareja said. “I need to review it because it just happened. But obviously it creates concern from us conceding another goal at the end.”
The Lions were unable to get a clean look at goal in the five minutes of stoppage time, despite Matheus Aias making his Orlando City debut late in the match, coming on for Perea on a set piece opportunity. The final whistle went, and that was that.
The hosts finished with more shots (20-9), shots on target (4-2), corners (12-5), and passing accuracy (85%-83%), while Orlando had slightly more of the ball (51%-49%).
“There are things that happen in the season that alert you, wake you up, send you sort of messages that you have to absorb and pay attention to,” Pareja said. “But one thing that we’re not going to do is just get desperate right now.”
“I think the loss will give us a good reset and refocus us,” Akindele said. “Of course tonight this is going to definitely hurt but tomorrow morning we’re going to be up, we’re going to be at practice, and we’re going to be focused on beating Atlanta.”
Orlando City is back home on Wednesday night to take on Atlanta United for the fourth time this season. Game time is 7:30 p.m.