Inter Miami CF defeats D.C. United 3-2 in a Game Marred with Controversy

Inter Miami D.C. United

Washington D.C. – Inter Miami CF won a crucial game on the road against D.C. United Sunday afternoon at Audi Field. The 3-2 victory pushed Miami into seventh place in the Eastern Conference going into the international break. Leonardo Campana scored a brace, and Gonzalo Higuain continued his fantastic form scoring the game-winning goal in stoppage time.

The joy of the win was tarnished by an alleged racial slur used by United forward Taxiarchis Fountas towards Miami defender Damion Lowe. Referee Ismail Elfath stopped the match and followed MLS protocol for that type of situation. The coaches and both team captains were spoken to and VAR was reviewed to try and clarify what was said. During the match, they were unable to collaborate on what Fountas said to Lowe. The MLS has since opened up an investigation into the incident.

First Half

The Starting XI had three adjustments from the previous match against Columbus Crew. Damion Lowe, Leonardo Campana, and Bryce Duke got the nod for the pivotal match against D.C. United.

The first half had D.C. come out strong and be the aggressor in the match. It was hard to distinguish which team was the one fighting for a playoff spot. In the 22′ minute United opened the scoring via Christian Benteke.

Benteke pushed a Chris Durkin cross into the box past Drake Callender for the 1-0 lead. Damion Lowe was caught flat-footed for a fraction of a second, and it cost Miami the goal.

A Gonzalo Higuain corner kick was muffed by D.C. keeper David Ochoa, and Leonardo Campana managed to create space for himself to rifle the loose ball into the goal at the 39′ minute, 1-1.

The half would end 1-1, with D.C. playing inspired and Miami just doing enough.

Second Half

The second half began with the Herons in better form. A productive sequence of passes led to Miami’s second goal by Leonardo Campana at the 53′ minute.

Jean Mota crossed a lovely ball into the box for Leo Campana, who headed it towards a charging Alejandro Pozuelo. Pozuelo controlled the ball while tussling with a D.C. defender, and touched it deftly for Campana to score on a sliding kick for the 2-1 lead.

The lead would not last long, as D.C. United scored at the 57′ minute from a free-kick rebound blast by Fountas that found its way into the corner of the Miami net for the 2-2.

The game-winning goal would be scored by none other than Gonzalo Higuain, who is in a zone. A deflected pass bounced to Indiana Vassilev deep in D.C. territory, and Indi dribbled straight at the United defense before laying a pass out wide to DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin made a flawless pass on the ground into the D.C. box where Higuain exquisitely placed the shot past David Ochoa, 3-2. Gonzalo’s goal is to this point, the most important score of the season for Miami. The score at the 94′ minute gave Inter Miami the seventh and final playoff spot with three games left in the regular season.

Postgame Press Conference

Coach Neville immediately addressed the elephant in the room and spoke about the incident between Damion Lowe and Taxiarchis Fountas.

“I think there’s no place at all for racism on a football field, in society.”

The coach is absolutely right in stating that racism has no place in “the beautiful game.” This sport is truly the world’s sport, made beautiful by the diversity of cultures and races that take part in it. It’s unfathomable that at this point in time we cannot respect the dignity of each individual person, or of each race or group of people.

“I must commend my players for keeping their calm.”

Inter Miami is a squad that has a tight bond, and the focus is to make the playoffs. This ugly occurrence could have derailed that focus, but the team leadership, starting with the coach and continuing with the senior players did not allow that to happen. This is a mentally and emotionally strong group of players, and those are important traits to have if you are in a playoff race.

“My first thought was to bring the players off the field and to really make a big stand.”

This team did make a big stand, they stood united against a dreadful situation and were mature enough to get the result that was desperately needed. I know that this is not the team that is playing the best soccer in the MLS, but playoff futbol is not often pretty, it’s gritty and challenging. Inter Miami has been overcoming obstacles all season, and Sunday they overcame the biggest mental and emotional challenge they have faced so far.

DeAndre Yedlin said, “Sometimes you have to go through adversity to realize how much you truly love each other.”

Love can conquer all, and a team that loves and believes is a dangerous team for anyone. Inter Miami at full strength is a handful for any opponent.

Final Thoughts

The eyes of the football world are upon the MLS, waiting to see how this incident will be handled. The investigation must be thorough and transparent. If Fountas indeed do what he is being accused of, then the league must act swiftly to eradicate this type of behavior.

Taxiarchis Fountas has an opportunity to come clean if he in fact used a racial slur against Damion Lowe. There is no justification, but if there is genuine remorse, then perhaps there could be forgiveness. By forgiveness I mean an exemplary punishment, but maybe not a complete expulsion from the league.

This could be a moment where Fountas does some soul searching and it leads to an authentic change in him. I hope that if he reaches out to Damion Lowe, his call is taken. If they can talk and find closure from this ugly event, it could be an example for the world of football. I might be dreaming, but I’m a believer in repentance and forgiveness.

The world is watching, the next move is yours MLS.

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