Round 5 of MLS NEXT Pro action kicked off on Saturday with Inter Miami CF II defeating FC Cincinnati 2 by 1-0 at NKU Soccer Stadium in Highland Heights, Kentucky.
Tyler Bagley scored the game’s lone goal in the 38th minute with a wonderful curled shot from outside the 18-yard box. FC Cincinnati 2 had a chance to get on the board during the first half after a penalty was called in their favor, but Inter Miami CF 2’s goalkeeper Andre Zuluaga denied Avionne Flanagan’s kick from the spot.
FC Cincinnati fought back valiantly in the second half. It controlled the majority of possession and found a way to move the ball into its attacking third to create chances more frequently than in the first 45 minutes. Flanagan, the 29th overall pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, led the attack for FCC2 and almost evened the score in the early minutes of the second half with a dangerous effort that hit the crossbar.
That effort was as close as FCC2 came to equalizing, though. Inter Miami CF II’s defense held on strong and only allowed four shots on target and 11 shots overall.
There were several notable players missing for both teams either due to suspension or a coach’s decision. Inter Miami CF II was without leading scorer Emerson Rodriguez, and leading assist man Romeo Beckham, who was out after receiving a red card last week against NYCFC II. FCC2's leading scorer Arquimides Ordonez was also not on Saturday's roster after appearing for the first team in its midweek U.S. Open Cup match.
The Story: Inter Miami CF II's big bounceback
After suffering a lopsided loss the previous week, Darren Powell’s Inter Miami CF II successfully regrouped and returned to the winning ways displayed in previous weeks and there were some standouts who led the way.
Inter Miami II came out of the gates being the aggressor, using its forwards' athletic abilities to get behind FCC2’s defense and play quick passes into the box. First Team loanee Edison Azcona caused headaches for FC Cincinnati 2 on the left side, showcasing his one-on-one ability with the ball and blasting dangerous crosses into the box.
Bagley and fellow midfielder Lawson Sunderland connected during Inter Miami II’s goal. Sunderland did a great job shielding the ball in the box and found Bagley who had plenty of time to run up to the ball and net his MLS NEXT Pro account opener. Although they only had two total shots on target, Inter Miami II’s offense was in good hands even with the absence of Rodriguez.
On the defensive end, goalkeeper Andre Zuluaga played a pivotal role during Inter Miami CF II’s win Saturday. The start was the 18-year-olds first of the season and he was good for four saves, with the biggest being the penalty denial in the 20th minute.