Inter Miami CF Clinches MLS Playoffs in Inaugural Season
Inter Miami CF made history by qualifying to the MLS playoffs in its inaugural season with a win over FC Cincinnati on Decision Day presented by AT&T. The 2-1 victory, which was played in front of a limited number of Season Ticket Members at Inter Miami CF Stadium, made the Club just the seventh to qualify for playoffs in its inaugural season. Mikey Ambrose's first and Leandro GonzÃ¡lez Pirez's second goals of the season earned the team the crucial win.
"We feel excited. It's been a really difficult year with everything that's happened and I think that we have pushed forward a lot. Today we got the reward that we were looking for and we're in the playoffs. It's a huge step for us, I'm very happy for the players and everything they gave," said manager Diego Alonso. "It was a match that in normal conditions I think we could have won more calmly, but it worked out this way and we ended up winning the match with adjustments when I think we could've won it a little clearer. But we're happy with the result and happy to have qualified."
Inter Miami opened the match on the front foot, fighting off turbulent weather to create chances in the early going. After a few chances in the opening 10 minutes, the hosts found their breakthrough goal in the 19th minute. Ambrose, who was starting his third match of the season, collected a clearance outside of the box and struck a powerful left-footed shot past the keeper and into the back of the net. The long-range effort was his first goal in MLS.
Inter Miami doubled its lead just four minutes later from a corner kick; Lewis Morgan struck a pinpoint delivery to the near post that LGP attacked in the air and headed across goal and into the back of the net to make it 2-0 in the 23rd minute. The goal was LGP's second of the season and the assist was Morgan's team-leading eighth.
The team continued to push in attack and remain firm in defense, entering halftime with the 2-0 lead intact. In the 66th minute, however, Cincinnati cut into Inter Miami's lead; a powerful strike by Joseph-Claude Gyau from long range curled into the corner of the net, making it 2-1.
The hosts responded by pushing to consolidate the lead, notably through a pair of strikes at goal by Gonzalo HiguaÃn and Morgan. In the 86th minute, however, John McCarthy was called into action, making a diving save to punch away a header after a Cincinnati set piece.
In the 88th minute, Andrés Reyes was sent off with a second yellow card. Inter Miami responded to the challenge, defending stoutly down a man for the final two minutes of regulation and four minutes of added time. One final effort was crossed in by Cincinnati in the 94th minute, but McCarthy left his line and claimed the ball in the air, sealing the win and playoff qualification for Inter Miami.
Losses by Chicago Fire FC and Atlanta United FC meant that Inter Miami finished the regular season 10th in the Eastern Conference with an average of 1.04 points per game. Inter Miami's Eastern Conference play-in match against fellow expansion club Nashville SC will be played on Friday, Nov. 20, at Nissan Stadium and air live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes at 9 p.m. ET.
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