A-Town Down: Inter Miami strikes early, holds on for win over Atlanta United

After 15 minutes Saturday night, you would have thought Inter Miami CF and Atlanta United FC were in for a blazing shootout. Some 75 minutes later, it was a scratch-and-claw victory for the Herons, hanging on for a 2-1 victory and three more points from the Peach State.

The first goal came just two minutes into the match. Juan Agudelo, forced into the start thanks to injury, started play with a beautiful pass to Lewis Morgan. Morgan, with space, sent it into the box. Rodolfo Pizarro couldn’t finish, but the man that started play got his just reward and scored to put Miami up within 105 seconds of kickoff.

The RosaNegra defense, however, couldn’t make it hold for very long. An uncovered Jon Gallagher received the ball on the edge of the box, turned and slotted home past Miami keeper Luis Robles in the fifth minute. It could have been a demoralizing concession. Instead, the winner would soon come.

Brek Shea, a figure dismissed earlier this year on USL League One side Fort Lauderdale CF, have become a key contributor. In the 11th minute, he received an inch-perfect cross from Pizarro and headed it home for his second goal in two games. In a season where nothing has gone according to plan, Shea has become a rare pleasant surprise.

“We’re happy with the performances Brek [Shea] has been putting in,” manager Diego Alonso said in the post-game press conference. “He’s helping the team a lot. He joined the team late and was coming off a long-term injury, and little by little he’s been getting in the rhythm necessary to play, and he’s helped us grow as a team.”

And that was that. Three goals in 11 minutes, not a single one afterward. There were opportunities for Inter Miami to extend its lead, notably a low ball that eluded both Pizarro and Agudelo’s touch in the first half, but it wasn’t necessary. The Heron defense, so often compromised during this inaugural season, rose to the challenge and made the lead stick. Despite the early Gallagher equalizer, there was a lot for Alonso to like.

“We played a great match, one of our best. Above all else, you can win a match, but to win a match doing what you set out to do makes it a lot easier to repeat.”

Inter Miami CF will be hosting a team from outside the southeast for the first time in its history during its next match, lining up against New York Red Bulls on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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