What a long, strange trip it has been, but last night Orlando City took to the pitch for the first time in 123 days. In the first match of the MLS is Back Tournament, the Lions took on expansion side Inter Miami CF for the first time ever. The hype around this match was bigger than many matches Orlando City has been a part of in MLS.
Between it being the first match of the tournament, all the drama surrounding COVID-19’s impact on the sport, and the potential for the birth of an in-state rivalry, it was an electric atmosphere even without supporters in the stands. Let’s take a look at the five takeaways from Orlando City’s 2-1 win in the first match of the tournament.
It was to be expected, but all the players were a bit rusty. The occasional defensive giveaway, a pass too heavily weighted, and final touches a bit too late all plagued both sides. Orlando looked to be the better team during the first half, with more possession and a chance on goal, but the players still seemed to be lacking the sharpness one would hope for. Even Robin Jansson almost gave away the game a few times, and he is the rock of the defense. The lack of sharpness came back to bite the Lions when Inter Miami scored the first goal in the 47th minute.
Not even three minutes into the second half, and Orlando City hadn’t shaken off the rust enough to stop the expansion side from scoring the first goal between the two clubs — and of the tournament. Juan Aguedelo took the cross at the back post to give Miami the lead. While Orlando had looked like the better team to start the match, when Miami made a tactical switch during the water break, pulling Matias Pellegrini inside, everything switched. Miami created more chances and carried that into the second half, resulting in the goal.
A Scary Moment for Andres Reyes
There was no intent on the part of Dom Dwyer to injure Andrés Reyes as they went up for the ball — a play that happens often in every game — but it happened. There was no foul given, nor should there have been. Unfortunately, Dom’s inadvertent arm caught the throat of Reyes, and it was serious enough to bring on the stretcher and carry Reyes off. Every player was visibly concerned, and frankly it seemed that the medical personnel were not. It took nearly four minutes for the medics to come on the pitch, and a total of eight minutes to get him off the field. While it was not something that anyone wanted, the injury time did act like a reset for Orlando City to get back in the game.
Do you remember the only player to score for Orlando City in the first two matches? It was Chris Mueller in the 83nd minute against the Colorado Rapids. Cash found the net again in the 70th minute against Inter Miami to draw Orlando City even. Nani crossed the ball in from the left, and Mueller did a great job to complete his run and connect with his right foot, deflecting the ball off of Luis Robles and into the back of the net. Mueller played well during his time in the match and the goal was well deserved.
Taking it Late
How many times has Orlando City lost in stoppage time? The answer, of course, is too many. However, that was not to be the case in the first match of the MLS is Back Tournament. After all, the Lions have also scored late often in their time in MLS. After Mueller drew the Lions even, everyone knew that there would be a lot of stoppage time due to Reyes’ injury as well as the second-half water break. The referee legitimately tagged on 10 minutes of stoppage, but this time it was Orlando City that benefited from the extra minutes. In the seventh minute of stoppage time, Nani went up to head in a cross from Joao Moutinho, but it sailed over him. Fortunately, it bounced off players in the box and fell right to his feet. The veteran deftly left-footed it into the net, giving the Lions the win.
That’s what I saw, but I want to hear your thoughts on the match in the comments below.