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Nani Winner Gets Orlando Off to Winning Start

Subdued for most of the evening, Portuguese winger proves key to victory... Orlando City .... 2 Inter-Miami .... 1

Orlando City SC v Inter Miami CF - MLS Is Back Tournament
Luis Nani celebrates his winner for Orlando in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The first MLS fixture in four long months was a perfect illustration of the effect a designated player can have on an MLS game.

Luis Nani, he of Manchester United and Portugal fame, barely turned up for the first hour and more of this scrappy contest, but in the last 30 minutes (there was 10 mins added time) won the game for his Orlando City team.

Nani for once made his way past rookie right-back Dylan Nealis on the left flank and put a sumptuous low ball across Robles’ goal. It evaded Akindele at the near post, but Chris Mueller arriving at the back, displayed great tenacity beating Ben Sweat to the ball, and forcing it high into the net off the outside of Robles’ right boot.

Earlier Juan Agudelo had put Inter in front finishing a well-worked move from close range which involved some intricate inter-play between Victor Ulloa and 20 year-old DP, Matias Pellegrini.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Orlando City SC
Inter Miami players celebrate Juan Agudelo’s opening goal
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It was relief for the former New England man, who really should have opened the scoring early in the game, but fluffed his chance, failing to hit the target from six yards.

An incident in the 51st minute involving Dom Dwyer and Miami centre-back Andres Reyes, resulted in a ten minute stoppage, Reyes having to leave the field on a stretcher with a throat injury. The centre-back looked to be in great discomfort as he was wheeled from the field.

Although the challenge looked innocuous enough, Dwyer looked firstly subdued, then somewhat moved. He was replaced by Akindele twelve minutes later.

Then came that Nani winner deep into time added on. There was a touch of fortune about it too, as a cross came from the left flank, hit a surprised Figal on the leg and rolled straight to Nani, who needed no second invitation. The execution was coolness personified as the Portuguese rolled the ball past Robles for the winner.

Until then his evening had been notable only for his ineffectiveness, but two moments of class changed all that and Nani went home the hero!

The game was scrappy as you might expect, both sides used all five substitutes permitted, and while coach Oscar Pareja will be happy with his first Orlando City victory, a draw might have been the fairer outcome.

It was only Orlando City’s 12th win in their last 62 MLS games. For Inter Miami, they still await their first MLS point, each of their three games so far having been lost by the slimmest of margins.

On tonight’s evidence it may take a while before this tournament bursts into life, although the first round of games were always expected to be tight and stuttered.

At least there is football to watch again...