After dominating play for 80 minutes, Inter Miami CF looked like they had the goal that would lift them into playoff position. Three minutes later, Atlanta United stunned the expansion club to maintain their tenuous hold on a postseason slot.
Despite controlling the action nearly the entire match, the host Herons had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Five Stripes on Wednesday night at Inter Miami CF Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The Eastern Conference foes were playing for a critical three points as Atlanta (5-9-4, 19 points) entered the game in the 10th and final playoff spot, one point ahead of Miami (5-10-3, 18 points). As the match came to an end, the teams remained in those positions.
Former United player Brek Shea got Miami on the board first, beating goalkeeper Brad Guzan off a perfect cross from Lewis Morgan in the 80th minute -- three minutes after Shea entered the match. It was Shea's second goal against his former team this season, the first being the game winner last month.
But Atlanta's Jurgen Damm made sure Wednesday's goal wouldn't be the winner, as in the 83rd minute he weaved through the Miami defense to just outside the 6-yard box then found a wide open Jake Mulraney in front of the net. Mulraney buried the shot past John McCarthy to make it 1-1.
Looking to extend their first winning streak to three, the Herons played like a team hungry for three points, dominating from the get-go and finishing the game with a 21-3 edge in shots (6-1 in shots on goal). Much of Miami's best chances came early in the match, as the expansion club put Atlanta on its heels in the opening minutes.
Miami's best early chance came in the sixth minute, when 32-year-old Argentinian star Gonzalo Higuain, playing in just his fifth career MLS match, took a pass from Morgan and charged from the right flank. Higuain got a good shot off his right foot, but a diving Guzan made the save then quickly regrouped to go sprawling to his left and cover the ball just as Higuain tried to put in the rebound.
--Field Level Media