The Houston Dynamo scored twice in the first half in a 2-1 win over Inter Miami in the 2023 U.S. Open Cup final Wednesday at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA-EFE
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The Houston Dynamo dominated Inter Miami early on before holding off a chaotic stoppage-time effort from the Herons to win the 2023 U.S. Open Cup final Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The Orange Crush outshot the Herons, who played without injured striker Lionel Messi and defender Jordi Alba, 19-11 in the 2-1 triumph at DRV PNK Stadium.
"We were so up for this match," Orange Crush manager Ben Olsen said at his postgame news conference. "We were really just dialed in on the offensive and defensive end."
Messi's absence was painfully evident throughout the match, as the Herons struggled to posses the ball and attack the net. Herons manager Tato Martino attributed the losing effort and stagnant offense to fatigue and injuries.
"The reality is that we were going to suffer the consequences of so many games we've played," Martino told reporters. "We started feeling that with injuries and in our execution."
Defender Griffin Dorsey and midfielder Amine Bassi scored in the first half for the Orange Crush.
Veteran forward Josef Martinez cut the deficit in half in the first minute of stoppage time, but the Herons could not bag an equalizer down the stretch.
Messi, who aggravated a leg injury in a Sept. 20 win over Toronto FC, was ruled out about 50 minutes before kickoff and missed his second-consecutive game for the Herons.
"He will play [again] before the season is over," Martino said. "We will go match by match and see when the medical departement will give us the OK for him to play without any further risk."
The Orange Crush outshot the Herons 12-0 through the first 24 minutes of Wednesday's final.
They took the lead on that 12th shot, with Dorsey pursuing a slow feed from Artur inside the Herons box. The fullback caught up to the pass and used his first touch to rip a shot into the left side of the net.
The Herons' attacks continued to fizzle, with the Orange Crush defense forcing turnovers just before they could place shots on net.
The Orange Crush doubled their advantage in the 33rd minute. That score was prompted when right back DeAndre Yedlin fouled Nelson Quinones in the box.
Bassi then stepped up to the spot and blasted a shot into the right side of the net, beating Herons goalie Drake Callender.
The Herons brought in midfielder Diego Gomez and Martinez as second half substitutes. They almost immediately improved their attack, but still could not find the net for the majority of the half.
Quinones appeared to net a third Orange Crush score in the 73rd minute, but that goal was disallowed because of an offside call.
Martinez finally put the Herons on the scoreboard in the first minute of stoppage time. Fellow forward Facundo Farias slid a through ball between defenders and into the box for the striker during that sequence.
Martinez allowed the pass to bounce ahead before using his first touch to hit a shot just inside the left post.
The Herons attempted another trio of shots in stoppage time, but could not beat Orange Crush keeper Andrew Tarbell for a second time.
"This win is huge for the club, huge for the team and huge for everybody in Houston," Dorsey said on the CBS broadcast.
"We've had a rough stretch as the Houston Dynamo and is something that will put us on the map and show that we are a team to compete in MLS and whatever league we are playing in."
The Dynamo sit in fourth place in the Western Conference. They will host FC Dallas in their next MLS game at 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday in Houston.
Inter Miami will resume MLS play with a game against New York City FC at 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday at DRV PNK Stadium.
The Herons remain in 14th place in the Eastern Conference standings, as Wednesday's game did not count toward MLS standings.
They are five points behind NYFC, who currently hold the No. 9 -- and last -- playoff spot. Five games remain on the Herons' regular-season schedule.