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Florida Clasico: Messi-less Miami labor to draw with Orlando City

In a tense encounter at the heart of the MLS, Inter Miami showcased their resilience by battling to a hard-earned 1-1 draw against Orlando City on Sunday. Even in the absence of their marquee players Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba, the team displayed a fighting spirit, keeping their playoff dreams flickering as they sit five points away from the final playoff spot with only five games left in the regular season.

Tata Martino opted to rest his stars

The stakes were high, and the tension visible as Gerardo Martino, Miami's head coach, made the calculated decision to rest some of his key players. With the looming U.S. Open Cup Final and an opportunity to secure their second trophy in the Messi era, risks were meticulously measured. In came homegrown talents Noah Allen and David Ruiz, reflecting a line-up reminiscent of the time before Messi's arrival, a time when Miami was at the lowest position of the Eastern Conference.

Orlando City, sitting comfortably in second and already with a playoff berth, showcased their intent early on. Duncan McGuire was a constant threat, finding pockets of space and testing Miami's backline. In one instance, a well-timed shot from McGuire brought out a good save from Miami's goalkeeper, Drake Callender. Miami, however, had their moments with striker Leonardo Campana coming close with a header, only to be denied by Orlando's agile keeper, Pedro Gallese.

David Ruiz opens the scoring for Inter Miami against Orlando CityTA

The deadlock was broken in the 52nd minute with a moment of brilliance. Campana, pivotal up front, played a decisive ball to Josef Martinez. The shot was initially blocked, but David Ruiz was on hand to tap in the loose ball, bringing the Miami fans to their feet. The joy, however, was short-lived. Orlando City, unwavering in their pursuit of an equalizer, found their reward. A deflected pass landed at the feet of the lurking McGuire, who made no mistake this time, drilling a shot through Callender's legs in the 66th minute.

McGuire equalizes the game for Orlando against Inter MiamiTA

The final stages of the match saw a visibly tired Miami side, clinging on, battling fatigue and pressure as they hung on for a valuable point. The draw paints a compelling picture of Miami's journey ahead. With the U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo on the horizon and a crucial clash with direct playoff rivals New York City FC next week, Miami's mettle will be tested, and their spirit examined, as they vie for a coveted playoff position in a season marked by both challenges and triumphs. Watch all of Messi and Inter Miami's games on their quest to the playoffs with MLS Season Pass.

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