On Sunday, Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba were not on the field for Inter Miami as they fought their way to a 1-1 draw away to Orlando City in Major League Soccer.
The outcome of this match puts Miami in a position where they are five points behind the team in last place in the standings with still five games left in the regular season.
It is possible for Miami to win their second trophy of the Messi era on Wednesday when they attempt to add the U.S. Open Cup to the League Cup that they won last month, and with that aim in mind, head coach Gerardo Martino did not take any chances with his line-up.
In addition to Messi and Alba, who were both unable to play due to health concerns, Martino decided to bench Busquets, a Spanish midfielder who had not missed a game for the club since he signed with them in July.
Before Messi’s arrival, Miami featured a line-up that was very similar to the one that had caused the club to plummet to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. This line-up included local teenagers Noah Allen and David Ruiz, who were brought into the side.
The Orlando Magic, who were ranked second in the Eastern Conference and were already guaranteed of a spot in the playoffs, got out to a strong start and had the better chances. In the 29th minute, striker Duncan McGuire found himself in space on the edge of the box, but goalkeeper Drake Callender made a great stop on his effort.
At the opposite end of the field, Miami’s in-form Ecuadorean striker Leonard Campana came close to scoring with a header from a corner kick, but Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese made a great save.
Campana set up Josef Martinez with a pass in the 52nd minute, and while Martinez’s low effort was blocked, David Ruiz was able to put in the rebound and give Miami their first goal.
Martin Ojeda attempted to score with a curling shot off his left foot, but Callender did well to save it. Orlando then squandered another opportunity when Ivan Angulo found himself in a position to score, but he missed the net with his shot.
However, the home team did not get its reward until the 66th minute when McGuire took advantage of a deflected ball that came into his path and hammered a first-time shot between Callender’s knees to give his team the lead.
In the latter phases of the game, Miami struggled mightily with fatigue as they clung to a point.
“They are a very competitive team just like us, and we just try to fight through and get the win,” Ruiz said. “We just try to get the get the win.”
He continued by saying, “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the result, but it’s just another point that gives us a hope to make it into the playoffs.”
“Obviously we didn’t have players key players like Busi, Jordi, and Messi, but we’ve been working every day hard to get a spot on the team, and I mean you can see that in the game,” he continued. “We’ve been working every day to get a spot on the team and I mean you can see that in the game.”
Following their match against the Houston Dynamo in the final of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, Miami will face New York City FC, one of their primary competitors for a spot in the playoffs.
A broken water main at Red Bull Arena forced the postponement of Saturday’s match between NYCFC and Toronto FC, which resulted in the game being rescheduled for Sunday. On Sunday, NYCFC defeated Toronto FC 3-0 to move into ninth place, passing D.C. United in the standings.
The Argentine attacker Julian Fernandez scored a wonderful goal all by himself to cap off the victory.