Beckham's Miami reach MLS playoffs in first season
Miami (AFP) –
David Beckham's Inter Miami refused to be blown off course in their pursuit of reaching the Major League Soccer playoffs on Sunday, securing a famous victory while battling tropical storm Eta.
Wild winds and rain made conditions in South Florida extremely difficult, but a combination of Diego Alonso's side beating Cincinnati 2-1 and rivals Atlanta and Chicago dropping points ensured a difficult inaugural campaign has now been boosted with a trip to the post-season, where fellow newcomers Nashville will welcome Miami on November 20th.
Goals from Mikey Ambrose - the first of his career - and defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in the opening 45 minutes had put Beckham’s franchise in control at the interval yet more drama was to follow after a brilliant strike for the visiting team from Joe Gyau on 66 minutes.
A late red card for Inter defender Andres Reyes ensured a nervy finale.
Some crazed celebrations at the final whistle began, however, once confirmation of defeats for Atlanta and Chicago arrived on MLS's "Decision Day" finale to the regular season.
This was just the seventh win from 23 in the regular season for Alonso's side, who grabbed the last available play-off ticket by finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Cincinnati, who are coached by Beckham's former Manchester United teammate Jaap Stam, end up bottom for the second year in a row as Inter Miami moved on.
"We are very excited, it has been a difficult year but we have worked hard and today we got the reward," said a delighted Alonso, who dedicated the triumph to the 2,703 fans who cheered on their team while combating the elements.
"It's a big step for us, if they were normal conditions we would have won by more but we are just happy to get there.
"We knew the results were falling into place but needed to wait and it's great we could celebrate with the fans who came to support us in such circumstances.
"They still showed up and that"s incredible. They are some of the worst conditions I have ever seen as a player or coach and it was difficult to know how to play.
"We wanted to attack, but it wasn't a day for a lot of touches. Every time the ball went into the air it was difficult."
The MLS play-offs are all one leg knock-out games and Alonso added: "A new tournament starts now and we can forget what has happened in the season up until this point.
"This group loves to play life or death matches. I am delighted."
The chances of Inter Miami extending their season appeared slim before kick-off with Atlanta, Chicago and Montreal also vying for two available slots.
- 'We did it' -
But although Thierry Henry's Montreal triumphed over DC United and will play New England in the next round, Atlanta and Chicago Atlanta lost against Columbus and Chicago fell to New York City FC to ensure Miami also sneaked through despite Cincinnati pushing hard at the death for a draw which wouldn't have been enough for the home team.
"The conditions were crazy, when we saw the storm would hit close to the game, we knew it would be like this," said Gonzalez Pirez.
"We had the wind in our favor in the first half so we knew we had to get it done and then try to manage the game in the second. Rain is no problem but playing with the wind is so tough.
"But we did it and now we can prepare for what's ahead."
With every MLS team in action Sunday, the Philadelphia Union locked up the Supporters' Shield for the team with the best regular-season record with a 2-0 victory over New England.
Toronto FC, also in the running for the Supporters' Shield, closed out the regular-season with a 2-1 defeat to New York Red Bulls.
© 2020 AFP