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NYCFC draws against Messi-less Inter Miami

Inter Miami forward Luis Suarez scored his fifth goal of the MLS season in the first half of a 1-1 draw with NYCFC on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA-EFE
Inter Miami forward Luis Suarez scored his fifth goal of the MLS season in the first half of a 1-1 draw with NYCFC on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA-EFE

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 30 (UPI) -- Luis Suarez gave Inter Miami an early lead, but an Alonso Martinez second-half equalizer held up for NYCFC, resulting in a draw between the MLS squads Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Suarez scored his fifth goal of the MLS campaign in the 14th minute of the 1-1 affair at Chase Stadium. The Herons (3-2-2), who played without injured star striker Lionel Messi for the third-consecutive game, remain in second place in the MLS standings.

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"They changed their intensity in the game," Herons manager Tata Martino told reporters, when asked about the NYCFC second-half comeback.

The Herons held a 13-10 edge in shots and controlled 52.9% of the possessions, but struggled to withstand NYCFC's physicality.

Suarez flicked a header into the left side netting for his first-blood score against NYCFC (1-4-1). That finish came off a curling free kick from fellow forward Julian Gressel.

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The Herons threatened with several more attempts on the NYCFC goal before surrendering the equalizer in the 34th minute.

Winger Mitja Ilenic split several defenders to feed forward Alonso Martinez for that score. Martinez finished the play with a rip just inside the near post.

Suarez unleashed a series of go-ahead attempts throughout the second half, but could not find the back of the net. He showed visible frustration with officials and NYCFC players, who appeared to stall several times down the stretch in an effort to run out the clock.

The Herons are now 1-2-1 in games played without Messi, who is out because of a lingering hamstring injury. Messi, who last played since March 13, is expected to return Wednesday when the Herons host Monterrey of Mexico's Liga MX in a Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal.

That match will start at 8 p.m. EDT at Chase Stadium. Martino said that Messi's status for the game will be officially determined Tuesday after the Argentine trains with the Herons.

NYCFC will host Atlanta United at 7:30 p.m. April 6 in Queens.

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