Nani celebrates his game-winning goal. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Nani scored in the seventh minute of stoppage time to climax Orlando City SC’s rally from a one-goal deficit en route to a 2-1 win over Inter Miami CF in the opener of the MLS Is Back Tournament on Wednesday night.
In the league’s first match in 120 days, Nani took a loose ball in the box, positioned himself and broke a late tie with a strike past Miami goalkeeper Luis Robles to give Orlando City (1-1-1, 4 points) its first win for new head coach Oscar Pareja.
Like all professional sports, MLS was forced to shutdown in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miami (0-3-0) opened the scoring when former Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo slotted home a brilliant cross in the 47th minute for the first goal in a game that did not have any spectators in the stadium at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
Orlando City’s Chris Mueller equalized off a Nani cross in the 70th minute, that was deflected by former Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
Agudelo had the first quality chance in the ninth minute when he broke free near the far post, but his chip went high and wide.
In a moment of concern, Miami’s Andres Reyes’ was stretched off the pitch after a collision with Orlando’s Dom Dwyer in the 51st minute. Reyes reportedly was having trouble breathing following the contact.
In an emotional and powerful statement, more than 100 Black players in Major League Soccer, members of the Black Players for Change took the field at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in a joint protest prior to the kickoff.
Players lined up across the main field before Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF played to a 1-1 draw. Their demonstration took eight minutes and 46 seconds, symbolizing the amount of time police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, who was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25.
Players, wearing shirts with sayings such as “Black and Proud” and “Silence is Violence,” outlined the field while Miami and Orlando players kneeled on the outline of the center circle.
One by one, every player raised his fist during a a moment of silence, recalling the historic protest by U.S. Olympic medal winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
MLS became the first men’s pro sports league to return to play in the United States after the National Women’s Soccer League came back to play in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup on June 27.
NWSL players also have been participating in similar protests during the national anthem, with many players kneeling in a callback to Colin Kaepernick’s protests in 2016.
Black Players for Change was founded in June in the aftermath of those protests, with more than 170 MLS players involved with the organization.