Inter Miami’s frustration during the postgame was palpable.
Not only was the team angered and “gutted” over losing another game, but the expansion side also felt hard done-by because of the officiating that the club believed led to a game-changing and scary injury to one of its players.
Inter Miami got off on the wrong foot in the MLS is Back Tournament on Wednesday, allowing an early second-half lead to slip away in a 2-1 defeat to budding rival Orlando City. The loss in the competition opener at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex dropped Inter Miami to 0-3 in its debut season, and left the first-year club in a world of pain.
“It hurts. Everybody is pretty sad right now,” said Inter Miami forward Juan Agudelo, who put his side ahead in the 47th minute. “To be honest, to be up 1-0, to understand how hard we worked to be up 1-0, and to give up a goal in stoppage time, it’s tough to come in and do a press conference after that.”
The 97th-minute winner that Nani scored for the Lions off a deflection was not all that was on the minds of Inter Miami. The first-year team also had some choice words about the performance of head referee Rubiel Vazquez.
“It’s a very, very poor officiating from him today,” said Inter Miami goalkeeper and captain Luis Robles.
Inter Miami’s main point of contention with regards to Vazquez? The collision between centerback Andres Reyes and Orlando City forward Dom Dwyer in the 51st minute. The two came together and not for the first time in the match in that moment, and a stray elbow from Dwyer as the striker tried to shield himself seemed to catch Reyes in the throat.
The Colombian defender crumbled to the ground immediately in visible pain, and required immediate attention from the medical staff. Reyes was removed from the field shortly thereafter on a stretcher.
“What’s really frustrating about tonight’s match is that I feel like it was avoidable,” said Robles. “I’ve played against Dom for years and he’s a very talented forward and I understand his game. I have a lot of respect for his game and he’s scored a many a goal on me, but I also know that he’s a very physical forward.
“If the referee is going to give them the type of rope to play that way, he’s going to be very impactful. Yet you can see in the first half there were several moments where I felt that the fouls were very, very hard coming in from behind, and yet (Vazquez) continues to say that they were soft fouls, he continues to say that they weren’t strong, that they weren’t necessarily even a foul, and yet everyone on the field could see it.”
Not long after the ugly incident that forced Reyes out and left Dwyer visibly shaken, Orlando City found an equalizer through a Chris Mueller finish. Inter Miami tried to respond, but ended up conceding again during the 10 minutes of stoppage time that were added due largely to the Reyes injury.
“It had a massive impact, a massive impact on the rest of the game,” said Robles. “Our defensive unit is already thin as is and for us to lose a guy like Andres — who is in the middle of the park, who is having a great game — it completely changed the entire complexion of the game.
“…Again, I don’t even put that on Dom. I put that on the ref. ”
The member of Inter Miami that may have been most upset was Diego Alonso. The head coach answered most of the questions he got during his post-game video conference with very short responses, and refrained from directly responding to several inquiries.
What Alonso did say repeatedly is that the team would look to improve in the next game in order to grab that elusive first victory in club history, something that was echoed by Agudelo.
“There are lots of positives we can take from this game,” said Agudelo in Spanish. “But it’s also time to win.”