Antonio Carlos gave Orlando City a lead late in the first half, but the Lions were wasteful and gave the ball away cheaply in the second half, allowing Inter Miami to sneak out of Exploria Stadium with a 1-1 draw after Kieran Gibbs’ goal. It was an unsatsifactory result for Orlando City (8-4-5, 29 points), which had a chance to close the gap on New England but couldn’t hold the lead against last-place Miami (3-8-4, 13 points).
Tesho Akindele had a late goal disallowed for offside, which didn’t help matters. Miami’s point in Orlando was the first time in the Tropic Thunder rivalry that the Herons took any points away from the Lions at Exploria Stadium.
“I think it was a difficult game for both (teams),” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “It didn’t flow for either team, I think, from the beginning. We couldn’t find a rhythm. Miami didn’t create any chances but we didn’t have that volume in attack that we used to have, either.”
Pareja’s lineup was almost unchanged from the starting XI against Atlanta. Mason Stajduhar got his second straight start, with Adam Grinwis on the bench and Pedro Gallese still out. Kyle Smith and Ruan flanked center backs Robin Jansson and Carlos. Junior Urso started in place of Uri Rosell in the only change, alongside Andres Perea in the central midfield. Chris Mueller and Mauricio Pereyra facilitated the attack to Nani and Benji Michel.
Orlando City was sloppy in possession in the opening 10 to 15 minutes, trying to find a way through the Miami midfield trio of Blaise Matuidi, Victor Ulloa, and Gregore. Miami’s defense was only partly responsible for the numerous poor passes or bad touches, but some of it was just sloppiness on the part of the Lions as they tried to settle into the match. Inter Miami committing seven of the game’s first 11 fouls and 10 in the first half didn’t help the flow of the game, either, but the Lions seemed to lack a sense of urgency for long stretches in the match.
The first good look for Orlando came in the 19th minute. Pereyra floated a cross in for Nani, who timed his run well. The captain got his head on the ball but struck it right at goalkeeper Nick Marsman. Four minutes later, Perea followed his own blocked shot and fizzed a strike just over the crossbar.
Pereyra freed himself up for a shot in the 37th minute but his effort was too close to Marsman, who made the save. Two minutes later, Smith nodded just wide off a Nani corner kick cross.
The Lions found an opener in first-half stoppage time. Michel won a corner kick and the Lions played short, which is usually when things go wrong. But instead, Nani delivered a fantastic ball into the area for Carlos to nod home.
Unfortunately, Carlos clashed heads with Kelvin Leerdam right after the header and needed a visit from the trainers. He finished the first half on the sideline being checked for a possible concussion and was subbed off at the break for Rodrigo Schlegel.
After the match Pareja said the team is waiting for the doctors to fully evaluate Carlos to determine his condition and how to proceed.
Orlando City attempted more shots (8-1), fired more on target (3-0), held more possession (56.6%-43.4%), and passed more accurately (89.4%-85.6%), with each team winning three corners in the opening half.
The Lions should have doubled the lead in the 51st minute. A great through ball sent Ruan in behind the defense on the right. With options to shoot or find one of two teammates in the area, he sent a cross into the path of a defender and it was knocked harmlessly away.
A minute later, Miami sent a warning shot across Orlando’s bow. Schlegel got himself out of position after tussling with Gonzalo Higuain, allowing Robbie Robinson to break in on goal. Robinson stayed wide and beat Jansson. Stajduhar came out to cut down the angle and Robinson chipped the ball over the top. Smith came back and made a leaping play to head the ball off the goal line to preserve the lead.
Miami tied the match in the 66th minute after Orlando had multiple opportunities to clear the ball out of its own end but couldn’t find the handle or make a good pass out of traffic. The ball ended up on Miami’s attacking right side and Ulloa sent in a cross to the back post. Ruan was no match in the air for Gibbs who nodded just inside the left post, leaving Stajduhar no chance for a save.
Smith nearly handed a winning goal away just seconds later. His back pass was too soft, allowing Lewis Morgan a chance to get to it. Stajduhar did well to get off his line quickly and take the ball off Morgan’s foot in the 67th minute.
Orlando fashioned its next good chance in the 74th when Nani got down the left. He shot from a tight angle and Marsman was able to fight it off for a corner. Five minutes later, a pass sent substitute Silvester van der Water down the right but the Dutchman didn’t hit the ball cleanly with his weaker foot and it squirted well wide of goal.
The Lions thought they’d regained the lead in the 82nd when Smith sent a cross in that Marsman spilled in front. Akindele tapped it in while Miami players argued with referee Armando Villarreal. After consulting with the video assistant referee, Villarreal went to the monitor and didn’t take long to overturn the goal, ruling Akindele offside in the buildup.
“I think Silvester had the ball at the top of the box. I thought he was going to shoot, so I ran in to get the rebound, but he passed the Kyle,” Akindele said. “So I came back, and then when Kyle crossed I ran again and I guess I was barely offside. I saw the video. It did look like I was a bit offside, so it’s fair enough. You get some bounce your way, some don’t bounce your way.”
The last good look for Orlando came in the 91st minute when Pereyra fired over the bar from just outside the area and that was that.
The Lions out-shot the visitors 14-4 (4-2 on goal), held more possession (56.7%-43.3%), passed more accurately (88.9%-81.9%), and earned more corners (7-4), but have only one point to show for a game in which Miami created very little. The Herons will happily take the point and their third non-loss in a row (1-0-2) and head back south.
“We couldn’t combine as usually we do and maybe we are not now in our best shape,” Pereyra said. “We are suffering a lot to win the games and we need to keep working and keep growing to go to the next level and try to go to the end of the season in the best shape.”
“At the end of the day, it was just disappointing,” Akindele said. “We expect to win games at home, especially when we’re up 1-0. I think that we have the quality to close it out, so it’s disappointing. I think it’s not like the defense let us down or the offense. I think we just need to — as a group — be more solid and make sure when we have a lead, we take care of it and that when we’re at home we win the games.”
The Lions have another quick turnaround, with a trip to play FC Cincinnati on Saturday looming. That match is set for 7:30 p.m.