Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Final Score 0-0 as Lions Get Second Straight Result

In a defensive struggle, the Lions and Herons couldn’t produce a winner in a game that ended scoreless.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City and Inter Miami played to a scoreless draw in front of a sellout crowd of 25,046 at Inter&Co Stadium that looked every bit the part of two teams playing on short rest. Each side created only a couple of good looks at goal and the goalkeepers took center stage for the few chances that were generated, while the back lines of both teams cleaned up everything else.

Inter Miami (8-2-4, 28 points) has still never won a road game against Orlando City (3-5-4, 13 points), as the Lions are now 2-0-5 in the City Beautiful against their Tropic Thunder rivals. Lionel Messi, who was listed as questionable on the availability report, did not dress for the match and still hasn’t played in Orlando since coming to MLS.

“A very level game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I thought we found two teams that both had options. They could have scored at the beginning of the game, and then through the game we had our options too. We have the sensation that we could have walked off the field with three points, but we have to recognize that was a very tight game for both teams. The effort from the players was extraordinary and we keep on adapting to new things. I’m good with the performance of the team. I think we’re going in a good direction, I think we’re turning things around, and played against a good team who has good momentum. But today, as I say, we could have walked off with three points.”

Pareja went back to a 3-5-2 after it was successful in Philadelphia Saturday, with goalkeeper Pedro Gallese behind a back line of Rodrigo Schlegel, Wilder Cartagena, and David Brekalo. Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres played wingbacks outside of a midfield group of Nico Lodeiro, Cesar Araujo, and Martin Ojeda, with Luis Muriel and Duncan McGuire up top.

Miami started by holding a lot of the early possession and quickly created a couple of excellent opportunities. Just moments after the opening kickoff, Luis Suarez got inside of Brekalo and fired a shot from the left toward the right post. Gallese went to ground and made a huge save to keep the game scoreless.

Franco Negri then was able to sneak in behind the defense in the seventh minute down the left flank. He centered the ball for Robert Taylor, who fired with his first touch. Brekalo got in front of it to block it and Orlando was able to clear the danger.

“Honestly, I was anticipating that the pass was going to be cut back. I thought at that moment that it’s an offside — I still didn’t see that clip — so if it wasn’t, it was it was a good block and well done by me,” Brekalo said with a smile.

The Lions finally produced some chances starting in the 14th minute. Muriel took a free kick outside the penalty area on the left and sent it to McGuire at the near post. The flick was just wide of the upright and hit the outside netting. A minute later, Torres was able to get to the end line, but his cross for Angulo was caught by Drake Callender.

McGuire tried a volley shot off a high cross in the 17th minute but it was deflected out by the defense for an Orlando corner. The cross in from Lodeiro on the set piece was just over Torres’ head at the back post and went harmlessly out for a goal kick. Seconds after that, Orlando took possession and Torres had a go from the top of the area with his right foot but he just missed the top right corner.

Cartagena did well in the air to deny a ball into the box intended for Suarez, conceding a corner, but Miami could do nothing with it.

Orlando’s best chance of the first half came in the 32nd minute. Muriel threaded the needle at the top of the penalty area to send a ball in for Ojeda. The Argentine immediately turned and shot, but Callender did well to get down and make a diving, one-handed save.

A minute later, Callender made another huge save to deny a Muriel shot from the top of the box.

Matias Rojas went for goal in the 35th minute on a free kick conceded by Schlegel near the right corner of the box. Gallese tipped the shot over the bar, and Orlando was able to clear the subsequent corner.

The last look at goal in the first half came in the 41st minute when Marcelo Weigandt jumped into the play from his right back spot. He fired from the top of the area but missed the target badly to the left.

Orlando City finished the first half with the adantage in shots (8-4), corners (4-2), and passing accuracy (88.6%-88.2%). Miami had more possession (50.6%-49.4%) and shots on target (3-2).

Neither side generated much offense in the second half, and it got worse as the game progressed, as tired legs caught up to both teams after each played on the road Saturday.

Each team won an early corner in the second half but couldn’t do anything with it as the game settled into a chess match between the penalty areas. Gallese had a scary moment near the hour mark when going high to catch an entry ball from Rojas. Suarez hit the keeper while he was vulnerable and Gallese went down hard and needed the trainers to come on. After a delay, he was able to continue.

Orlando had some of the best transition chances of the second half but could not execute in and around the box. Ojeda failed to get a cross through in the 69th minute on the first of those promising attacks. Muriel started multiple attacks with his footwork, drawing a yellow card on Taylor after dispossessing the Miami winger and being pulled back by his shirt. Later, he took the ball from Sergio Busquets. It looked clean, but the referee called a foul on the Colombian and he was booked after kicking the ball away, angry about the whistle.

Miami’s best chance for a second-half goal came in the 74th minute when a ball from the visitors’ left was sent in front by second-half substitute Jordi Alba. If the pass had reached fellow sub Leonardo Campana, Miami would almost certainly have scored and probably would have won the match, however, Cartagena did well to clear the danger before it could get through.

A minute later, Muriel sent Angulo down the right channel, but the speedy wingback sent his cross straight at Callender, wasting the opportunity. Two minutes later, the Lions broke with numbers. Torres picked out Muriel, but the pass allowed the defense to recover somewhat and when the striker tried to put a move on to free up a shot, he lost control of it and the chance evaporated. Muriel then sent a shot just wide in the 79th minute.

Second-half sub Dagur Dan Thorhallsson marauded down the right flank in the 88th minute but sent his cross/shot into the outside netting.

During the six minutes of injury time, Yutaro Tsukada, one of the team’s 2024 MLS SuperDraft picks, made his MLS debut, coming on for Torres. Tsukada had the chance to play the role of the unlikely hero late, as a ball in the air fell for him in the box. He fired, but hit his shot into the ground and it missed the target on what was the last kick of the ball.

Orlando City finished with the advantage in shots (14-7) and corners (8-4), while Miami held more possession (58.7%-41.3%) and passed more accurately (90.0%-86.6%). Each team officially put three shots on target.

First-place Inter Miami didn’t have Messi, but that takes nothing away from a strong defensive performance by Orlando City. It was just the second time all season the Herons have been shut out, and tonight’s match snapped a run of five consecutive games in which Miami had scored three or more goals.

“Keeping our goals (against) at zero today was a great positive thing for us,” Pareja said. “Again, adapting players to different movements and absences of players who have been regulars…we looked good. That part is positive.”

One of the key reasons for the clean sheet was the play of Cartagena, who may have been the team’s best center back on this night.

“It was a difficult game,” Cartagena said. “Obviously to mark a player like Suarez is very difficult, very complicated, especially with the player that he is and the way that he likes to move, but I think as a group we did a great job defensively. With Rodri, with David, we were really solid and compact. Obviously, we’d love to take a win from today, but I think overall, taking that draw, we feel good about tonight.”

The Lions have another quick turnaround with a match on the other side of the continent Saturday night when they visit the San Jose Earthquakes at 10:30 p.m.


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