ORLANDO – The MLS is Back. The soccer league opened it’s 2020 season tournament with its first match last night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
With the COVID-19 virus has wreaked havoc on the world, especially the sports world, MLS is one of the first larger sports leagues that has returned to play. The League decided to return with a world cup-style tournament called the MLS is Back tournament, being held at Disney World in Orlando.
Teams were divided into groups, playing inside of their groups during initial group play, and then expanding to tournament play after that.
The opening Match has Orlando City SC facing the new team to the south, Inter Miami FC.
The Match opened with a stirring statement of unity by the players on the pitch.
Both the Orlando City and Inter Miami players formed a circle on the mid field circle. On the edges of the filed, over 100 black MLS player lined the filed wearing black shirts with different slogans such as “Silence is Violence” and “Black and Proud”, supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement.
As the team players in the circle kneeled, the players on the perimeter each held up a black gloved fist while all players remained silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time the amount of time white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man whose death in late May sparked nationwide protests.
Both Orlando City and Inter Miami players kneeled on the filed just before the match
Finally, after the opening of the tournament, we get to some long awaited soccer in the US. Orlando City had their first ever match against in state “rival” newcomer Inter Miami FC.
Orlando managed to get 2 games played at the beginning of the season and had a draw against Sporting KC plus a loss to the Colorado Rockies. Miami Suffered losses in their first two games vs LA Galaxy and DC United.
Orlando City SC managed pulled out a 2-1 win with a goal by Nani 7 minutes into stoppage time.
After a scoreless first half, where both teams had chances but didn’t come through, the scoring didn’t really get going until the second period.
Miami’s Juan Aduelo charged toward the goal and received a nice pass across the face of the goal and easily put it in in the 71’s minute.
Orlando City retaliated later in the half after Mauricio Pereyra found Nani down the left flank. Nani then laid a perfect ball for Chris Mueller to kick in on the far post to equalize.
“Honestly a lot of the work had been done by Luis [Nani].” Said Mueller. “He had taken it down one on one and put in a fabulous ball to that back post. I just had to hustle and make sure I got there to get some good contact with it and put the ball in that net”
Orlando was able to seal the victory at 7 minutes into stoppage time after a cross from João Moutinho was deflected in the box, falling to the feet of Nani who slotted it into the lower right corner of the net.
“I thought it was better than probably what we could have thought about this, a game where the teams came with no game or a friendly game [before].” said Orlando Coach Oscar Pareja. “Both teams were very generous with the effort and we saw a lot of soccer there. We are proud with the victory, the first ever in the history of the clubs and we are proud. Congratulations to the players and to our fans.”
It was noted by the announcers of the match that Orlando had only managed to win 11 of it’s last 61 games. It did appear that this might be yet another loss for the Lions, but by having all of their weapons and talent available, they were able to prevail.
Orlando next faces New York City FC on Tuesday July 14th for continued group play.