FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Soccer is a constant battle for performance and result.
Inter Miami got the former on Friday, but frustratingly could not translate it into the latter.
Inter Miami suffered its sixth defeat of the season on Friday night, losing 2-1 to arch-rival Orlando City after allowing a second-half lead to slip away. The South Florida side was up as late as in the 72nd minute in the latest chapter of the Sunshine Clasico at Drv Pnk Stadium after putting together one of the team’s better showings in recent weeks, but some Nani magic helped the Lions rally to victory and left the Herons without a home win in five tries this year.
“There are moments in the game where you feel like you are in control and I think we have to be more concentrated at this moment because you feel like the game is more easy but it is not true,” said midfielder Blaise Matuidi. “We did not concede too much today and on the couple balls they have they score. That is why I think at this moment we have to be more focused.
“I do not say about the defenders, but I say about all the team. I think that is important because at the end the points are more important than everything.”
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) June 26, 2021
Inter Miami largely negated Nani and Orlando City for much of the first 70 minutes on Friday, especially in the first half, and that opened the door for substitute Gonzalo Higuain to score a great goal from distance that broke the deadlock in the 67th minute.
Things unraveled shortly after that for Inter Miami, however. A 73rd-minute long ball in over the top and into space saw Nani beat Christian Makoun for pace before the Portuguese winger hit a delightful cross out of the air that Chris Mueller did well to direct home. Nani then came up with a world-class winner seven minutes later, hitting a must-see curler upper 90 that had both power and placement.
“We were beaten probably by one player, a player I know well,” said Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville. “Two moments of absolute magic from Nani in a game where I thought we were absolutely outstanding. I feel angry but really proud of the team.
“When you talk about what you want to see from a team, that is exactly what I saw tonight, is exactly what I saw probably against D.C. but better tonight, and exactly what we saw in the friendly vs. Toronto. I am absolutely convinced if we keep that attitude, we keep that level of performance that we are headed in the right direction and we will get our just rewards.”
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) June 26, 2021
Inter Miami showed plenty of that attitude and an impressive commitment to the cause, stifling Orlando City and frustrating the in-state rivals from the run of play. The Herons’ centerback duo of Nicolas Figal and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez were particularly good at limiting Lions striker Daryl Dike, who was largely ineffective before being substituted in the 64th minute.
All in all, though, it was the entire Inter Miami team that competed hard, putting up the type of valiant effort that has not always been on display this season.
“Players that were willing to run, players that had the right attitude, players that were really bought into the game-plan, players with energy, players that were hungry, players that would sprint forward (and) sprint back,” said Neville. “That is the level now that we have got to accept. That is the level that if we fall below it, the players that do not sprint will be out of the team.
“The players are enjoying that and I think there is a level of performance, a level of attitude now that is a non-negotiable. When we have that kind of attitude and have that total commitment, you get the performance like we did tonight.”
Still, there are plenty of things to adjust, fine-tune, address and correct. Not only did Inter Miami’s defense come undone late, albeit via some stellar play from Nani, but the attack also did not generate that much en route to finishing with just three shots on target in the team’s fourth straight loss and fifth in the last six matches.
On the whole this was a good step in the right direction, but performances need to lead to results and this one, for all the improvements, fell just short.
“We have to work on details because details in football are the most important,” said Matuidi. “You can play good, but at the end you lose. We are disappointed for that. We have to keep going, keep working hard.”