Champions League betting: English teams pose threat to Bayern

The Champions League proper is set to begin in October and online betting sites have already released the outright odds for this season’s tournament.

 

Bayern Munich lifted the trophy in Lisbon after beating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final, and it is the Germans who start as co-favourites for the 2020-21 tournament.

 

Hansi Flick’s team are priced at 9/2 with most bookmakers to go back-to-back, and with Leroy Sane’s arrival strengthening their attacking options, they are likely to be just as difficult to beat in this campaign as they were during the last.

 

Manchester City, Sane’s former club, are also 9/2 even though they have never won the Champions League. Lyon knocked them out in a shock 3-1 result at the quarter-final stage, meaning that Pep Guardiola’s wait to win the European Cup at City goes on.

 

One English club that have had plenty of experience in lifting ‘Old Big Ears’ is Liverpool, who are 5/1 in places but 7/1 best price. The addition of Thiago Alcantara will be a huge boost, and confidence within the squad will be at an all-time high after they followed up their 2019 Champions League success with a maiden Premier League triumph this year.

 

Like Man City, Paris Saint-Germain are searching for their first Champions League and the Ligue 1 outfit are 9/1 with Paddy Power to finally go all the way. Having reached the final for the first time in 2020, many may be tempted by that price for them to go one better.

 

You can never keep Real Madrid away from Champions League finals for too long, so it is no surprise to see them at 9/1 with some betting sites, while they can be snapped up at a more generous 12/1 elsewhere. That price may change depending on what happens between now and the end of the transfer window. There have been plenty of departures from the Bernabeu, many of which will surely be replaced.

 

Barcelona, meanwhile, have already spent big on midfielder Miralem Pjanic from Juventus and the exciting Portuguese winger Trincao from Brago. But their biggest coup is being able to keep hold of Lionel Messi, who at one stage looked likely to be heading to Manchester City. The Catalan giants, five-time winners of the European Cup, are 16/1.

 

There are some 17/1 quotes available on Serie A champions Juventus, while Chelsea, who have bolstered their squad massively, are 22/1. Manchester United are also 22/1, but that may have something to do with their pedigree in the Champions League rather than their current squad.

 

It may be surprising to see Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, and Borussia Dortmund as big as 33/1 with some bookies, and an even bigger long shot is Atalanta at 45/1. The Italian side were highly impressive with their attacking football last season as they reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League and finished third in Serie A.

 

Sevilla have an incredible record in European competitions, having won the Europa League six times this century, but the Champions League may be a step too far from them and 70/1 is probably fair.

Match Recap: Inter Miami CF vs. Orlando City SC

Inter Miami sealed their first-ever win over Orlando City Saturday night. Julian Carranza led the Herons with a brace as Miami sealed a 3-2 victory at Inter Miami CF Stadium.

The long-awaited first home match for Inter Miami did not disappoint. After a fabulous first 45 minutes of play, Miami saw out the victory on its home turf. Orlando was unable to snatch a point late in the game, and Miami came away with its first points of the 2020 MLS Regular Season.

First Half

In the 12th minute of play, Carranza had won a ball in midfield that fell to Rodolfo Pizarro. The Mexican International dribbled right at a defender with his striker alongside. Carranza received a perfectly weighted and timed pass from Pizarro as he overlapped him, and tucked the ball into the near post for a 1-0 lead.

Miami’s defense was beaten just 6 minutes later, as Orlando rookie Darryl Dike bodied Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to the ground, which led to a turn and a shot on target. Goalkeeper Luis Robles did well to make the first save, however, Andres Reyes or Ben Sweat couldn’t clear the ball, which led to Dike striking home the rebound.

At 1-1, Miami was still playing inspired. Winning balls in the midfield and organized defending translated into some positive play. A lot of the first half featured Inter Miami progressing into the final third with countless forward dribbles and passes. The use of Lewis Morgan on the wing seemed to be in the game plan for Diego Alonso’s side, but ultimately the opposite side provided Miami’s second goal.

In the 22nd minute, Sweat had received a pass from the midfield as he ran down the wing. With his head up, he saw Carranza making a run at the back post. Immediately Sweat put in a fantastic cross that Carranza was able to head perfectly. From the left side of the keeper at the back post, the striker lofted his headed attempt across to the top of the goal in an unreachable position. Just like that, Miami was back on top at 2-1.

Pizarro and Carranza were a delight to watch in the first 45 minutes. The play from the two going forward showcased what this team can bring on the offensive front. Carranza was extremely active in the entire match. He won a handful of freekicks for Miami and bothered Orlando defenders for the majority of the first half. The 2-1 lead at the halftime break was a result of inspiring play from the whole team.

Second Half

Inter Miami was able to carry this momentum straight out of the gate. The tactics from the first half did not change as Miami found themselves in a scoring position only three minutes into the restart.

Defender Nicolas Figal, who found himself a lot of freedom to go forward this game, played a backheel pass to Morgan on the wing. Morgan was able to put a ball into the box that found a backward header from Victor Ulloa that landed perfectly to Pizarro’s foot. In the most composed manner, Miami’s Number 10 slotted the ball into the bottom corner to give them a 3-1 lead.

Just seconds later after the goal, Carranza was on a break and found Pizarro with a headed through ball. He took a shot just inside the box and barely missed his chance for a second as he struck the inside of the far post. Even up 3-1, Miami fans were able to watch a hungry, attacking side.

After three yellow cards in a quick 13 minutes for Miami (53′, 62′, 66′), it was evident legs became heavy. Orlando had subbed on Chris Mueller at the half, who made quite the impact in the latter part of the match.

Immediately following a triple substitution for Miami, which featured Brek Shea, who made his first appearance for the club, Orlando scored a second goal. Dike did well to body LGP yet again and played a back pass to Mueller on the corner of the box. Mueller did well to send in a cross to the head of Luis Nani on the back post, and Robles had no chance. Now 78 minutes in, Miami was pressured to hold on.

Orlando threw numbers forward in the last 10 minutes plus 5 of added time, but ultimately Miami stood strong. Just like that, Inter Miami had finally won a game.

 

The 3-2 win will go down as a monumental day for Inter Miami. The first win and the first home game are two huge steps to take as a club. Miami will look to carry this momentum into Wednesday as they take on Atlanta United for the first time.

Five Reasons to be Excited about Inter Miami (4/5)

Inter Miami return to MLS action on August 22 against in-state rivals Orlando City. For each day leading up to the game, I’ll be going into detail explaining one of my five reasons to be excited about Inter Miami.  These five reasons, and dates of all and each coming piece, are listed below:

Reasons to be Excited About Inter Miami

  1. New Signings (August 17)
  2. Return of Robbie (August 18)
  3. Playing with More Experience (August 19)
  4. Potential Acquisitions (August 20)
  5. First Home Game (August 21)

Matchday will feature a pre and post-game piece as well.

Potential Signings

With the MLS Transfer Window open, Inter Miami has already made the biggest splash in the league. Blaise Matuidi is taking his talents to South Beach. The signing of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez before the MLS is Back Tournament is also going to be impactful in the restart. Fans still question if both these guys will fix all of the club’s problems.

Miami needs help in most areas of the field. If LGP and Matuidi cover the backline and the midfield, what does the club do about goalscoring? Daniel Sturridge, Roger Martinez, Edinson Cavani, are all a couple of names that have been in the mix for a while.

A Number 9

The Roger Martinez rumors were true, however, the clubs never reached an agreement in the pre-season. The Colombian international is a name that should still be considered. He’s a young, talented, prolific striker that may be able to create scoring chances for Miami in the final third.

Daniel Sturridge’s name was thrown around after he had contract issues in Turkey. Shortly around the time of Miami’s first game in Los Angeles, Sturridge seemed to be an intriguing acquisitio.n. As a player whos had major roles at major clubs, MLS would not be much of an issue for him. As he gets older though, the club has t question if it’s worth wasting a Designated Player spot on him, compared to other top tier strikers available.

Recently, Edinson Cavani’s name has been thrown around all over the world. Due to the rise of Kylian Mbappe and the signing of Mauro Icardi at PSG, Cavani has no place in Paris. Reports have come out that he has reached an agreement with Portuguese club Benfica. As a free agent, Inter Miami would be able to bring Cavani in for free, and on a short term deal as a DP, its hard not to say, “why not?” Cavani became a top tier striker in his seven years at PSG, and a move to MLS or Liga Nos would benefit him as he gets into the latter part of his career.

Best fit?

Miami needs a number 9. Miami also needs a wing-back as well as another midfielder to pair with Matuidi.

Roger Martinez would be a great get if the club can put him under the salary cap. This would leave room for Miami to leave the DP slot open for a world-class midfielder.

Arturo Vidal is likely on the move after the demise of FC Barcelona. As the club looks to move on from some older players, Vidal would be the ideal pairing for MAtuidi in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Another older player like Vidal who could be on the move is Antonio Valencia. The Ecuadorian spent most of his career with Machester United. As he became older, he lost his role at the English club and has since moved to a club in Quito, Ecuador. His veteran presence could prove to be impactful as Miami looks to develop rookie Dylan Nealis.

Missed Out

Before Inter Miami signed even half their roster, David Silva was meant to be headed to Miami this summer. The talks ended up being far off, and now Miami has officially lost the Manchester City maestro to Spanish club Real Sociedad. After the early talks, it was hardly mentioned again as he was still an impactful player for City. Silva still has the talent to offer good service to any European club.

Miami take the field this Saturday and no signing looks to be coming before then.

Make sure to look for tomorrow’s piece talking about the club’s debut at the new and improved Lockhart Stadium!

 

 

 

Inter Miami

Five Reasons to be Excited about Inter Miami (1/5)

Inter Miami return to MLS action on August 22 against in-state rivals Orlando City. For each day leading up to the game, I’ll be going into detail explaining one of my five reasons to be excited about Inter Miami.  These five reasons, and dates of all and each coming piece, are listed below:

Reasons to be Excited About Inter Miami

  1. New Signings (August 17)
  2. Return of Robbie? (August 18)
  3. Playing with More Experience (August 19)
  4. Potential Acquisitions (August 20)
  5. First Home Game (August 21)

Matchday will feature a pre and post-game piece as well.

New Signings

Suddenly and surprisingly, Inter Miami went out and acquired Blaise Matuidi. At 33 years old, Matuidi instantly fills in a hole in the midfield that Inter Miami struggled with in the recent Orlando tournament.

Matuidi’s role over the last couple of years has varied in terms of position. As a left-back, left midfielder, and primarily a center defensive midfielder, Matuidi proved to both Juventus and the French National team he’s a vital asset to any cup winning side. At the world cup in 2018, Didier Deschamps used Matuidi on the left side of the field the entire tournament. He played in five of the seven tournament games, started in four which included the final, that of which they won.

His qualities are more focused on winning the ball in the midfield Diego Alonso will likely use him in this way. Alonso’s formations vary between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3. Both would cater to a player like Matuidi as he’s capable of being a ball winner, but also connecting play between the center backs and any attacking players. The French National team did use a 4-2-3-1 in which Matuidi played a left mid role, but with players like N’golo Kante and Paul Pogba, the midfield being locked down wasn’t in much trouble. Victor Ulloa and Wil Trapp were not of much help at any point in the Orlando tournament for Miami’s midfield, and oftentimes Rodolfo Pizarro was having to trackback. To relieve Pizarro of these duties is exactly what Matuidi will likely do. With Pizarro getting to focus more on creating while relying on Matuidi midfield to win the ball, hopefully, more chances are created.

Before the tournament, Inter Miami also announced the signing of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez from Club Tijuana of Mexico. Another major issue with Miami’s tournament games had been individual mistakes and “shakiness” at the back.

Pirez has a tremendous MLS resume at just 28 years old. Before leaving for Tijuana, he was named an MLS All-Star for the first time in 2019. Pirez also won the MLS Cup with Atlanta in 2018, one of the best teams the league has ever seen and was fourth in voting for MLS Defender of the year in 2017 and 2018. Pirez was the anchor for Atlanta United’s over the three years he was with them, having started every game he appeared in, even all 5 playoff matches that led them to MLS glory.

Miami’s defense, which is led by Nicolas Figal at the moment, hasn’t been too promising. Alonso has switched between both a three-back and four-back formation, but both have led to massive slip-ups. Bringing in Pirez will give Alonso solid starting quality which the team desperately needs. Looking at three in the back with Pirez included, he’d likely see himself playing alongside Figal and Andre Reyes. Figal is an aggressor and enforcer who likes to get up the pitch at times, and a player like Pirez would be able to allow this to happen as he is so solid defensively. The wing-backs have also struggled massively in this formation, mostly on the left side. Pirez like Figal is also a dominant physical presence that may have opposing sides struggle with their attacking play.

Matuidi and Pirez are set to make instant improvements to the Miami side. We will likely see Pirez hit the field first as Matuidi is not set for an appearance for a couple of weeks.

Look for tomorrow’s piece on the potential return of our striker Robbie Robinson.

 

 

Blaise Matuidi Officially Signs for Inter Miami

Inter Miami CF have gone out and signed a World Cup winner in Blaise Matuidi.

The midfielder will depart Juventus for free, a year before his contract was set to expire. Juventus had recently won the Serie A, but were knocked out in the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final last week. Following the loss, eyes were on Juventus to make major changes at the club. It started with the firing of Maurizio Sarri, and the hiring of Italian legend Andrea Pirlo as manager. Matuidi is thought to be the first of a number of players on the roster set to leave Turin, as they look to restructure the squad.

The Announcement

Bringing in Matuidi was talked about and declared “official” days before Inter Miami officially announced it. When the words “Here we go” are in any tweet from Fabrizio Romano, that’s when you know a deal is done. Romano, a world renowned football journalist and reporter, broke the news suddenly on the morning of August 10th.

Questions were asked about how Inter Miami would bring him in under the MLS Salary Budget. For a player of Matuidi’s quality, it’d be expected that Paul McDonough would have to waste a Designated Player (DP) slot on him. However, McDonough has pulled off the unthinkable here by signing Matuidi as a TAM player. TAM, or Targeted Allocation Money, is defined by MLS as “funds strategically provided by the league to teams to add or retain players that will make an immediate impact on the field.” This leaves the club with one more DP slot available . In a simple sense, a DP is a player who’s salary does not take effect and can exceed the MLS Salary Budget. Therefore, Inter still have a massive opportunity to sign another big name player.

On the Morning of August 13th, Inter Miami posted this tweet to tease Miami fans, “Who controls the field?”:

It was quickly followed with the actual announcement of the clubs new Number 8.

Blaise Matuidi: The Player

At 33 years old, Matuidi contributed heavily to the Scudetto winners in 2019-2020. Of the 38 games this year, Matuidi started in 23 and was subbed on in 12. An important piece to such a top team, Matuidi’s move to MLS may come as a surprise as it doesn’t seem his career was dwindling just yet.

Blaise Matuidi has been on more title winning sides than someone can count on both hands. He’s won the Ligue 1 title five times with PSG, the Serie A three times with Juventus, 12 cup titles in France, and another cup in Italy. Matuidi’s greatest accomplishment however, is his World Cup win with France in 2018.

Normally a center defensive midfielder, and a solid one at that, Matuidi has also proven he can play as a left midfielder, or left back too. In every game Matuidi featured in at the 2018 World Cup for France, he was asked to play on the left side. As a player, Matuidi is a more defensive minded midfielder who excels at winning the ball. Inter Miami, an MLS Expansion Side who’s struggled so far to retain possession and protect its backline, may have found a match made in heaven.

Overall, this is a huge signing by the club. David Beckham has brought in his former teammate to help solidify his midfield and team as a whole. It should be noted that Matuidi likely won’t play in Miami’s first couple of 2020 regular season matches and it is not known exactly when he will be available.

With that said, Miami fans should still be excited to bring in a proven winner like Blaise Matuidi.

Inter Miami are set to host Orlando City at Lockhart Stadium on August 22nd as the 2020 MLS Regular Season returns.

Grading Inter Miami after another loss

Losses: 3. Goals: 2. Answers: None.  That is how you could sum up Inter Miami’s winless and point-less (but not pointless) performance in the MLS Is Back tournament group stage, which ended with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of NYCFC on Monday morning and a last place finish with 0 points in Group A. Grading Inter Miami reflects the team’s uncertainty.

We saw old mistakes and new questions arise for Diego Alonso’s squad, which played very much like an expansion team in a must-win game that turned into an uninspiring one-way ticket back to Miami.

On to the grades.

Important note: Only those who played at least 30 minutes will be graded. Those who didn’t will receive an Incomplete unless they did something otherworldly or were vital to the final outcome of the match.

Grading Inter Miami

Luis Robles (5):

He bore no responsibility in NYCFC’s goal, left out to dry by a defense that took a nap at the most inopportune time. Having said that, he never was a savior in this tournament and the final match was no exception.

Mikey Ambrose (3):

Ambrose was daydreaming about the new Splash Mountain ride when he got caught ball watching and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi slipped by him. Contributed nothing on offense either, got replaced by Ben Sweat in the 68th minute. Just a forgettable night overall.

Jorge Figal (4):

Figal had a good first half and could have scored with a header in the 35th minute, but he was once again exposed as one of the main culprits in NYCFC’s goal, losing sight of Shradi by no communicating with Ambrose and with no closing speed to make up for it. Alonso and the Inter Miami fans expect much more out of him.

Román Torres (6):

The Panamanian center back imposed himself when pressed to action and prevented what could have been New York´s second goal with a great sweep.

Dylan Nealls (5): Got lost in the shuffle before exiting the match in the 79th minute by Alvin Powell.

Will Trapp (4): NYCFC had possession 60% of the time, and that was in part because of the fact that Trapp could never assert himself in the heart of midfield. Replaced by Lee Nguyen in the 68th minute.

Víctor Ulloa (4): Was he auditioning for “Casper”? Because he was a ghost and went unnoticed before coming off the field for Jay Chapman in the 79th minute.

Matías Pellegrini (3): Miami´s lowest point along with Ambrose, but even more noticeable since he was supposed to be one of the catalysts on offense but did absolutely nothing. Could never connect with Pizarro or generate a single decent chance. Alonso took him out for Julián Carranza in the 68th minute.

Rodolfo Pizarro (5): He tried. Unsuccessfully, but he tried. The Mexican star was clearly frustrated, isolated in an island by the NYCFC defense. He’s unable to create a single opportunity for himself or others.

Lewis Morgan (6):

Morgan was Inter Miamí´s best player of the tournament. And he was the only one remotely close to destabilizing the opposing defense with his speed. His shot from medium distance was Inter´s lone non-header chance, and it went just high over the crossbar.

Juan Agudelo (4): Started out well with a beautiful header that didn´t put Miami in the lead because of a great save. But the Colombian striker did less and less after that and ended up going to the locker room before the final whistle because of a childish red card after pushing off in the box in the 90th minute.

Grading Inter Miami: the Others

Lee Nguyen (Inc.): Nguyen was supposed to give a spark to the Miami offense. But all he did was put the defense at risk losing the ball at midfield and creating a scoring chance for the opponent as a result.

Julián Carranza (Inc.): Alonso put him in too late with Inter Miami already down 0-1. And his partnership with Agudelo as dual strikers never blossomed.

Jay Chapman (Inc.): Meh.

Alvas Powell (Inc.): He was in the match?

Ben Sweat (Inc.): If Ambrose isn´t the answer, Sweat continues to prove that he isn´t either.

Starting Streak: Inter Miami CF Suffer Fourth Straight Loss

Kacper Pryzbylko’s 63rd minute goal led Philadelphia Union to a tight, 2-1 victory over Inter Miami CF.

In a game that featured over 30 fouls, a red card, and some VAR controversy, the Union were able to see out the victory despite Inter Miami’s late push for an equalizer. The three points gained by Philadelphia secured their spot in the knockout stages of the MLS is Back Tournament. For Inter Miami however, no points from two games only gives them a small chance to advance. They’ll need to win on Monday vs. NYCFC and hope that the three points, and whatever goal differential they finish with, is enough to be a top-4 third place team. Philadelphia will go on to battle Orlando City on July 20th to determine the winner of group A.

The Match’s Opening Moments

Philadelphia opened the scoring with a very early goal. In the fifth minute, Inter Miami struggled to clear the ball away in a threatening area. Robles was faced with a hard, low shot from Kai Wagner, where his touch wasn’t enough to keep it out of the back of the net. This is now Robles’ second conceded goal in two games where he had a touch, but ultimately could not keep the ball from getting through.

Following the goal, Inter Miami responded with positive play. They controlled the game from that point forward, and were rewarded with a goal from a counterattack in the 36th minute.

Lewis Morgan was quick to dribble up the midfield only to find Rodolfo Pizarro for a nice 1-2 at the end of the box. Morgan then played a through ball to Matias Pellegrini, who found Pizarro back in the box and after some nifty footwork, scored.

Miami stayed on the front foot to finish out the first half, and luckily for Philadelphia, no more goals were scored. When the second half whistle blew, Miami still looked to commit numbers forward and control the game.

Inter Miami CF Fought in Second Half

Committing numbers forward gave Miami three good chances to start the second half. Julian Carranza failed to play a perfect ball in correctly. Although the defenders were split, Andre Blake was quick off of his line to stop the threat. Morgan was also faced with a great opportunity but a shot on his weaker foot did not have enough power behind it to beat Blake. Pizarro then had a great run that put him inside the area, but was unlucky to find Carranza on the edge of the six yard box.

In the 63rd minute, Pizarro was fouled about 25 yards out in the corner of the field. No yellow was given. But a failed free kick cross led to Brenden Aaronson sprinting down the field only to find himself with the ball at his feet in a 3-on-1 situation. He laid off the ball to Pryzbylko who did great to get the ball on his left foot on the end of the box and find the bottom corner with a shot. Robles was beaten for the second time in the match. Inter were down by a goal with less than 30 minutes to play.

Subs Doing Work

MLS Veteran Lee Nguyen was subbed on along with MLS debutant Jerome Kiesewetter in the 68th minute following the goal.

In the 74th minute, Carranza was given another great through ball with which he failed to control.

Just a minute later, and seven minutes after being subbed on, Kiesewetter’s efforts in the press almost led him to winning a penalty for Inter Miami. After a long pause in play following a foul, and a review from VAR, a penalty call was disallowed after claims of a handball. Kiesewetter would argue he was pushed in the back.

In what was an amazing chance for Inter to tie the game, Roman Torres won a header from a corner. However, it was met by the crossbar. No luck for Inter Miami late seems to be the theme amongst their first four games.

Victor Ulloa and Ben Sweat were subbed off in the 87th minute for Jay Chapman and Mikey Ambrose. Ulloa looked to be injured after making a game-saving tackle just minutes before. But he walked off the field on his own power.

The eight added minutes gave Inter Miami more than enough time to create chances, and they did. Unfortunately, after a headed effort from Carranza and a missed opportunity from Chapman inside the box, Inter could not convert.

After throwing numbers forward, Miami were caught again with another Philadelphia counterattack. The attack resulted in Andres Reyes fouling a Union player. Reyes would then be seeing his second yellow card of the match. The red card shown will now prohibit Reyes from playing in the match vs. NYCFC on Monday. Diego Alonso will be forced to change some defensive tactics due to the suspension.

Disappointing End

Inter Miami finished the game with 55% possession, over 70 more completed passes, and 3 more shots unblocked. The eye-test would conclude that Inter were unlucky to not come out of this match with at least a point.

July 20th, 9 AM EST is when Inter Miami CF kick off again, this time facing NYCFC. Both teams have started off the tournament with two losses. And they will both be looking for victory and a shot at qualifying for the knockout round.

Inter Miami

Orlando City 2-1 Inter Miami: Grading Inter Miami

Inter Miami had its official induction as a Miami team delivering its fans the first “What the hell just happened?” loss of its brief and winless existence as Nani completed Orlando City’s comeback victory with a 97th minute goal that sealed the fate of Diego Alonso’s squad in the inaugural match of the MLS Is Back tournament.

The match was a rollercoaster of emotions with goals, crazy injuries and a moving Black Lives Matter demonstration by both teams. However, Inter Miami itself was a mixed bag. They will have to make important tweaks ahead of a must-win matchup against the Chicago Fire next Tuesday.

Let’s take a look at how each Inter Miami player fared by grading them individually from 1 to 10.

Important note: Only those who played at least 30 minutes will be graded. Those who didn’t will receive an Incomplete unless they did something otherworldly or were vital to the final outcome of the match.

Grading Inter Miami

Luis Robles (5): Inter Miami’s goalkeeper started out great with an amazing diving save in the 22nd minute with the match still 0-0, but he could and should have done more in Orlando City’s first goal as the ball crossed the box and he remained paralyzed under the crossbar. Nothing for him to do in Nani’s goal.

 

Andrés Reyes (7): Reyes was having a great night as the leader of the five-man defense until Dom Dwyer’s vicious elbow sent him to the hospital in the 58th minute. The Colombian back showed great poise, and his absence destabilized the Inter Miami defense. The tying Orlando City goal came just a couple of minutes after his exit.

Ben Sweat (3): The complete opposite of Reyes. Insecure and full of doubts. He tried to score off a free kick with his hand, but he is no Maradona. He looked lost, and to make things worse Nani´s goal came off a silly deflection off his shin as he clumsily stumbled into a teammate trying to clear a cross in the heart of the box.

Mikey Ambrose (5): The left back was a non-factor against his former team. Didn´t have trouble on defense, but didn´t contribute on offense either.

Jorge Figal (3): The Argentinian veteran is supposed to be a steadying presence, but instead he seemed to be skittish and unnerved by Mueller and especially Dwyer, Orlando City´s only “true” forward.  He wasn’t paying attention and the ball deflected off him after the cross before it found Nani.

Dylan Nealls (3,5): Nealls lost to Nani way more than he won in their personal duel. The difference in speed and talent between him and a world-class player like Nani was evident as the world-class Portuguese midfielder left him in the dust before the assist for Orlando’s first goal.

Will Trapp (6): The central midfielder had the hockey assist in Agudelo´s goal and was crisp and tried to partner up with Matías Pellegrini before being replaced by Jay Chapman in the 79th minute. All in all, correct performance.

Víctor Ulloa (8): Very versatile next to Trapp and did a great job appearing in the box by surprise to serve Agudelo the scoring chance in a silver platter. Inter Miami´s Man of the Match.

Matías Pellegrini (7,5): Talking about scoring chances in silver platters, the 20-year-old Argentinian midfielder was the team´s main and best offensive threat all match long. He should have had an assist in the 8th minute with a great play, but Agudelo missed the point blank shot in the most unexplainable way.

 

Lewis Morgan (6): Another good option on offense down the right side, but he needs to stand out more if he wants to have steady minutes in the long run.

Juan Agudelo (6): Started out like a 2 missing the aforementioned chance created by Pellegrini´s cross, and then tried to score from midfield in the first half. Credit to him, though, for being where a striker should be to score. Got lost in the shuffle during the last 40 minutes as Orlando City dominated.

SUBS

Rodolfo Pizarro (6): The Mexican star came in for Reyes in the 58th minute and tried to provide a spark with his talent and creativity.

Julian Carranza (Inc.): Replaced Agudelo in the 73rd  minute. He is the superior striker and got yellow carded 10 minutes later.

Luis Argudo (Inc.): Came into the match in the 78th minute in place of Morgan as part of a triple substitution by coach Diego Alonso.

Lee Nguyen (Inc.): Nguyen is trying to regain his 2014 form and was dynamic during his 20 minutes of action in place of Pellegrini in the 78th minute. Don´t be surprised if he is more of a factor in the next two matches.

Jay Chapman (Inc.): Came in for Trapp. Almost made it 2-1 Inter Miami in the 88th minute with a header that just missed.

     

 

 

 

Five Reasons Sports

Martin Bater’s Intro to Five Reasons Sports

You pack your bags, you say goodbye, and you look back at that place you loved knowing you would eventually be back someday. On February 13, 2018, I started a 33-hour, 4-day road trip from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix leaving not only the life I knew and my family behind, but also my passion of covering sports for ESPN Deportes to become an Interpreter for the Arizona Diamondbacks. That road trip took me to Gainesville, Mardi Gras and a close call in Texas, but that’s a story for another time, Five Reasons Sports fans.

Fast forward to June 18, 2020. I’m back to covering South Florida sports, this time for Five Reasons Sports, and damn if it doesn’t feel good to be reunited.

A little bit about myself: My name doesn’t sound very Hispanic, but I was born and raised in Argentina before moving to Miami in 2002. People say Andy Murray and Benedict Cumberbatch are my dopplegangers (thanks?), and I love going to Graziano’s in Coral Gables for a tasty Milanesa with French fries.

Fútbol is my religion, but I also am an unconditional basketball, baseball and football fan. I arrived in South Florida just in time for the Heat to steal my heart and for the Dolphins to break it.

Yup, I missed the entire Dan Marino era and the first NFL game I ever saw was Tom Brady’s Super Bowl upset against Kurt Warner’s Rams. I didn’t imagine that would be the first chapter of the next 18 years of my football fandom. On the bright side, I got started with the Marlins winning the World Series and I had the privilege of witnessing the Dwyane Wade era in its entirety. The Panthers? I do hope that this new decade and the brand-new opportunity that they are about to have in the playoffs show me what I missed back in 1996.

I’m convinced about certain things in sports, and one of them is that the Designated Hitter doesn’t belong in the National League. I spent two seasons having a great time with the Diamondbacks as the team’s Interpreter before they made their COVID-19 related employee cuts last month, and I had the privilege of seeing Zack Greinke dissect the craft of hitting in Arizona. Greinke isn’t just a great pitcher capable of owning the moment in Game 7 of the World Series, but a legitimately great hitter as well.

We are talking about a guy who called his first career home run and is fifth among active pitchers in  career homers. I remember a night in April 2 of last year in San Diego when Greinke struck out 10 in six innings while also going 2-for-4 with 2 home runs, the first one traveling 413 feet to center field at one of the hardest parks to hit in the Majors. Then he left on a trade to the Astros and I got to see Madison Bumgarner (you know, the only pitcher to ever hit two homers on Opening Day) in action every day.

I can tell you with 100% certainty that Greinke’s and Bumgarner’s passion for hitting rubbed off on the rest of the staff. Robbie Ray, former Marlin Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver all pride themselves on being able to drive in a runner from second as well. And we want to take that away from them and others out of fear of injury or because we want more offense? What you are doing is making the game more predictable and less strategic.

You can also expect my takes on how Inter Miami will be the first to win a championship for South Florida this decade, why Maradona > Messi and Pelé, and witness me hopping on the already crowded Tua bandwagon.

My main goal will be to make you forget all the B.S. the world seems determined to throw at us on a daily basis right now with fun interviews and opinions you can love or hate me for. I will welcome your comments and I look forward to getting on this ride with you.

Five Reasons Sports brought me back home, and I am elated to be here.

How Major League Soccer will Return

Major League Soccer will return with all 26 teams set to arrive in Orlando starting June 24. The “MLS is Back Tournament” will take place between July 8-August 11. Yesterday morning, the league announced all rules and new COVID-19 regulations for the tournament, which will take place at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort in Florida. The return is just a few weeks away.

The Group Stage (July 8 – July 23)

In a World Cup style format, teams are to to be placed amongst six different randomly drawn groups. The Western and Eastern Conference will have 3 groups each, but different layouts when it comes to how many teams will be placed in each. Group A will feature Orlando City SC along with five other teams from the Eastern Conference. However, Groups C and E will feature four clubs each from the East. Atlanta United and Toronto FC will split into the remaining of the two Eastern groups. On the Western side, groups B, D, and F, will all have four teams each. LAFC, Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake will be placed in separately in these groups.

In a traditional style group stage in any tournament around the world, each team has a chance to play against all the other teams in the group. With the league announcing there will only be three group stage matches, participants in Group A won’t be able to faceoff against the entire group. To aid the grouping and numbers, Nashville SC will temporarily play as an Eastern Conference team. All three group stage matches will count towards the 2020 regular season. The draw for the groups will happen this afternoon at 3:30 EST.

The Knockout Tournament (July 25 – August 11)

After the group stage, set to end on July 23, the top two teams from each group, and the four best third place teams will be seeded into a knockout tournament. There will only be one match in knockout play, with a tie game going directly into penalty kicks.

  • Round of 16 – July 25-28
  • Quarterfinals – July 30-August 1
  • Semifinals – August 5-6
  • Final – August 11

All times are TBA.

What to Play for

MLS announced after the new CBA deal was reached, that there is a $1.1 million prize pool. The tournament will allow the players to earn bonuses. It’s been rumored that there is also a trophy that will be lifted on August 11, but there’s one prize that makes this tournament serious.

Other than the fact that the three group stage matches will count towards the regular season, teams will be playing hard all tournament because of a 2021 CONCACAF Champions League spot that will be granted to the winner. Regardless if it’s an American or Canadian club, this one time berth into the CCL will be replacing the spot that is usually awarded to the top team in the conference that doesn’t have the winners of the Supporters Shield.

Inter Miami CF was cleared to return to full team training earlier this week. Fans will hope it’s enough time to put the club ahead of the rest, turn around the 2020 season, and qualify for the CCL in its inaugural year.

The league also announced that the 2020 regular season will take place shortly following the finale of the “MLS is Back Tournament.”