The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup made its return to the former site of Lockhart Stadium, now known as Drive Pink Stadium. It was the herons of Inter Miami hosting the visiting ibises of South Georgia Tormenta FC. USL League One teams have so far been the nice surprise of this edition of the tournament, with Union Omaha and Northern Colorado Hailstorm both upsetting MLS teams in the previous round. Tormenta came down to South Florida looking to hopefully add on another cupset to League One’s tally.
In the end, Inter Miami was too strong playing in front of their home fans, beating Tormenta 3-1 to earn a spot in the Round of 16. Ariel Lassiter led the way with a pair of goals to keep Miami’s inaugural cup run moving.
Tormenta’s coach Ian Cameron made it clear that they were going for it and at the start of the match, his squad were instantly pressuring Inter Miami. A handful of on-target attempts by Tormenta in the first ten minutes were saved by Inter’s Drake Callender.
Two players stood out in the first half with Jamil Roberts orchestrating Tormenta’s attack while Miami’s Ariel Lassiter led a siege each time he got on the ball with his blistering pace.
Tormenta looked the better side and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before they scored. It was going to take one quick counter attack for someone to breakthrough. Near the end of the first half, Inter Miami won possession which led to a counter attack led by Gonzalo Higuain and Indiana Vassilev. Returning loanee Vassilev set up Lassiter’s first goal of the night, playing a pass to the left side of the penalty area. Lassiter settled and fired a shot inside the near post to beat Tormenta goalkeeper Pablo Jara to give Miami the lead before halftime. Tormenta were unlucky to be going into the break down a goal despite their dominance.
Higuain’s return only lasted the first 45 minutes as he was subbed off and Robbie Robinson took his place at the start of the second half. He made an instant impact by scoring 87 seconds into his stint; giving Miami a 2-0 lead. The Tormenta goalkeeper attempted a pass along the ground up the middle of the field to a teammatte but Jara’s pass was knocked away by Miami’s Robert Taylor who stepped in from behind to send the ball up to Robinson just outside the box. Robinson made Tormenta pay for their mistake, firing a shot into the back of the net from the right side for his first career Open Cup goal.
In the 65th minute, Robinson made a different kind of impact by engaging in a physical altercation with Tormenta’s Jake Dengler. This would see both players sent off and the teams playing with just 10 men for the remainder of the match.
A lapse in concentration from Inter Miami’s defense in the 73rd minute gave Tormenta a chance to get one goal back. Before Kingsford Adjei could score, Jairo Quinteros was able to clear the ball and keep Inter’s lead intact. Tormenta had another short stint of great attempts but Miami held strong.
Despite the best efforts of the Ibises, Ariel Lassiter would seal the game for Inter Miami with a “Schrodinger’s goal” that was hard to tell if it went in after deflecting off the underside of the crossbar. The referee judged that it did as Lassiter bagged his seventh career Open Cup goal, six more than his father Roy scored in his playing career that spanned more than a decade.
Tormenta would not leave quietly into the night, as their long-awaited goal would come from Kazaiah Sterling in the final minutes, taking away Callender’s clean sheet performance. The game would end 3-1 with South Georgia Tormenta being eliminated in the Round of 32.
“I didn’t take much joy out of winning this game,” said Phil Neville in the post-game press conference. He felt that Tormenta should have been multiple goals up by halftime and called his squad’s first half performance “unacceptable.” He added that some players who were asking for playing time got their wish and showed why they won’t be playing in this Saturday’s league fixture.
Having played local rival Miami FC in the Third Round, now Inter Miami face the possibility of matching up with league rival Orlando City SC in the Round of 16. Both sets of fans will eagerly watch the draw on Thursday to see if the first ever Open Cup edition of the Sunshine Classico will happen.