Like the Orlando Pride one night earlier, Orlando City won 1-0 at home on an own goal by the opposition. The Lions (8-7-4, 28 points) needed a stoppage-time own goal by Damion Lowe to capture a rare (in 2022) shutout home victory over Inter Miami (6-8-4, 22 points) in a rain-soaked 1-0 match at Exploria Stadium. It continued the trend of every game in the rivalry being decided by one goal or ending in a draw and allowed Orlando to snap a three-match winless stretch (0-2-1) across all competitions.
“Very intense game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought today was not an easy date after our last game and they (the players) bounced back. We know we have a lot of things to work (on), but today we deserved those three points and we’ll take it. We’re very proud.”
Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo was joined in central midfield by Junior Urso, behind an attacking line of Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.
The start of the match was delayed nearly two-and-a-half hours by lightning in the area and rain fell heavily at times while fans huddled on the concourse and the teams stayed in the locker room areas.
Once the match got underway, the Lions continued their recent unwanted tradition of not playing well in the first half. Misplaced passes and poor communication prevented Orlando from getting much going on the attacking end and it also set up Miami with a great chance early.
Pereyra’s poor back pass was picked off and Indiana Vassilev raced toward goal, eventually firing a shot that hit Gallese in the face and deflected wide of the far post in the seventh minute.
On the other end, the Lions couldn’t get much going but whenever they did, Pereyra paid the price, sustaining three fouls in the opening half. The Lions couldn’t make those set pieces pay off, however.
Jean Mota fired from distance for Miami in the 17th minute but his attempt didn’t come close to the target. Three minutes later, Leonardo Campana headed just wide on Gallese’s right side.
Urso found some space in the 30th minute and tried a shot from outside the area but a defender was able to block it. Pereyra sent in a decent cross on the ensuing corner kick but it was headed out by Miami. The corner was taken from the other side and a training ground sequence nearly resulted in a chance but Michel’s touch in front was poor and it was cleared.
Pereyra tried a shot from long range in the 32nd minute but he got well under it and it sailed high into the Wall.
That was it for a rather pedestrian first half. Miami had the better chances, but the teams went into the break scoreless. Possession was nearly even, with the visitors holding a slim edge (50.6%-49.4%). The Herons had more shots (6-3), shots on target (1-0), and corners (3-2). Orlando City was slightly more accurate in passing (84.5%-83.6%).
“It was congested,” Pareja said of the midfield in the game. “It was heavy for us to break the lines. We need balance, also. I think it’s something that we lacked in the last game, especially, when we conceded too much space. I thought it was a reason for our team to do that (defensive) job first and that’s why it was very congested.”
Miami wasted no time getting into the attack after the restart, with a cross coming right to left for Robert Taylor, who muffed his header at point-blank range. The ball then deflected toward the end line but wide of goal.
Orlando cleared the ensuing corner and looked to break with decent numbers but Ruan allowed three defenders to close on him without passing and he lost the ball.
In the 49th minute, Vassilev fired over the bar after a good passing sequence for Miami. Ruan left too much space on his side and a cross from the left found Yedlin, who headed it back to Vassilev. With plenty of time and space, he simply missed his shot.
The Lions had their best chance of the night in the 58th minute. Urso sent a nice switch across the field to Ruan down the right side of the box. Ruan cut a pass back across the box to Michel for an open look but the Homegrown bundled his shot at Drake Callender in the middle of the goal.
Two minutes after that chance, Torres fizzed a shot just wide of the upper right corner of the net. Urso then fired a shot just over the crossbar in the 63rd minute from the top of the box.
Miami got its best opportunity in the 72nd minute off a corner kick. Miami played it short before crossing to the top of the six-yard box. Aime Mabika got a free header in front but missed just wide of the right post.
Substitute Tesho Akindele got into the act late with a couple of opportunities but he hit both shots badly wide to the right. The first came on a good sequence in the 77th minute when Torres sent Ruan down the right side. The right back cut a pass into the area for Akindele on the right but he couldn’t get his body around and his shot skipped well wide.
The second chance came in the 89th minute. Smith sent a good cross in from the left and Akindele went up for a contested header and couldn’t make enough contact to redirect it on frame. It too went wide of the right post.
The game seemed poised to end in a scoreless draw when Orlando got a fortunate bounce. Jake Mulraney sent a cross into the area that Lowe tried to clear with his right foot in front of his own net. The ball squirted awkwardly off to his right, hitting the net just inside the crossbar for an own goal in the 92nd minute.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) July 10, 2022
“I think in the last few games, we’ve been pushing hard but (the luck) just hasn’t been there and it hasn’t really gone in,” Araujo said. “And thankfully tonight, you know, we’re on the other side of that, and we were able to get it to go in and take all three points.”
Araujo had a monster game for the Lions, with eight tackles and nine fouls won — both game highs by far. By himself, Araujo had nearly as many tackles and fouls won as Miami’s entire team.
Miami couldn’t mount a comeback in the few minutes of stoppage time remaining and the Lions had an improbable victory.
The Lions finished with more possession (54.7%-45.3%) and passing accuracy (96.6%-82.9%). Miami fired more shots (10-8) and won more corners (6-2). Each team managed just one shot on target on a night when both teams were offensively challenged.
“It’s good to fix those things and improve when you win,” Pareja said. “It’s easier, or at least you have more energy.”
There’s little chance for the Lions to catch their breath, as they’ll head next to the thin air of Colorado to play the Rapids on Wednesday.