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Inter Miami blow two second-half leads, but salvage third consecutive draw ahead of coaching switch

There was no fairytale ending for Javier Morales on Saturday night. But to his credit, he’s now led Inter Miami to points in three consecutive games.

The interim head coach was given one last game before Tata Martino officially takes over and he slides back to his assistant job, and it ended in a 2-2 draw at D.C. United.

Inter Miami held two separate leads in the second half, but failed to hold onto each of them.

Midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi and defender Noah Allen each scored their first career MLS goals to account for Inter Miami’s scoring, but each was answered with a quick D.C. United equalizer.

Cremaschi’s goal was neutralized six minutes later to make it 1-1, while Allen’s goal took nine minutes to be matched at 2-2.

“We felt like we had the game,” Cremaschi said.

Forward Leonardo Campana — who scored and assisted on Josef Martinez’s heroic goal Tuesday night — returned to the bench in favor of Martinez. Campana was then subbed in at the 66th minute to play alongside Martinez.

Martino, meanwhile, sat on the bench next to Morales for the first time after spending the last two matches watching from above in a suite.

“It was like a roller coaster for me, but finally I started to see — even in this short period — I started to see the team I would like to coach,” Morales said after the match. “I’m so happy and so proud, not just with the players, also with the staff the helped me in this transition.”

D.C. attempted numerous long passes over the top of Inter Miami’s defense in the first half and a handful of them made it through. But, D.C. never found the finishing touch to make a mark on the scoreboard.

Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender was first tested in the seventh minute when Taxiarchis Fountas got in on a breakaway, but put a non-alarming shot straight to the chest of Callender.

Callender then made a huge stop in the 39th minute when he burst off his line to deflect another D.C. breakaway. He finished the night with seven saves.

Combo passing up the right sideline allowed Inter Miami’s Nicolas Stefanelli to break in, but his shot was blocked and he suffered a leg injury in the process. Stefanelli tried to shake off the injury, but went down again and was subbed off in the 29th minute. Eighteen-year-old academy defender Israel Boatwright took his place after he signed a short-term agreement with the club earlier in the day.

Morales said the team thinks it may be a sprained ankle for Stefanelli.

“We have to see probably tomorrow how bad it is,” Morales said.

Cremaschi created Inter Miami’s best scoring chance of the half off a high-arching header that threatened the top right corner of the net. D.C. United goalkeeper Tyler Miller extended to his left and punched the ball away to force Miami’s first corner kick of the night.

D.C. appeared to take the lead in the 43rd minute off a set piece, but the goal was immediately waived off for offsides. VAR confirmed the ruling, and the teams went into halftime scoreless.

Martinez nearly scored in the 57th minute when Inter Miami forced a turnover from outside the D.C. box, but Miller made a phenomenal save going low against the grain.

Cremaschi tallied his first career MLS goal two minutes later on a screaming right-footed boot from the top of the box. It began a string of scoring after the deadlocked first half.

“It was an exciting goal for me,” Cremaschi said. “It was (Morales’) last game as head coach today, so I’m happy that I could score before he leaves.”

D.C. pushed hard after the go-ahead goal with a trio of dangerous scoring chances, including a turnover that led to a cross and back-post header that went over the top of the goal.

However, it was finally rewarded in the 65th minute with clinical execution working all the way from the back. Fountas was eventually set up at the top of the box and smashed the ball past a diving Callender.

Then, Inter Miami won a free kick in the 68th minute that defender Noah Allen took from a sharp angle to the right of D.C.’s box. He somehow bended a low shot through traffic, over the head of a slouched Martinez and cleanly kissed the left corner.


D.C. evened the score in the 77th minute when a cross was sent in and connected with the foot of a sliding Nigel Robertha.

The home team pressured for the remainder of the match, but Inter Miami was able to escape by a thread.

Callender made a point-saving stop in the 88th minute diving to his right to redirect a powerful volley from inside the box.

A D.C. United header was then sent just wide of the net in the 93rd minute as Callender was brought off his line.

Miami (5-13-3) has now allowed at least one goal in 19 straight MLS matches, the longest active streak in the league. The winless streak now sits at 10 games and Inter Miami remains in last place in the Eastern Conference, though just one point behind Toronto FC with two games in hand.

Morales finishes his run as Inter Miami’s interim head coach with a 0-3-3 record.

“I feel like this team is moving forward,” Cremaschi said. “And with the names coming, and the changes that are gonna come and everything that’s happening to this club, I feel like we’re gonna move forward and we’re gonna grow.”

Inter Miami will hit the road again next Saturday for a meeting with Western Conference-leading St. Louis.

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