Inter Miami’s dire performance against Austin FC is sounding some alarms.
While it’s still very early in the season, and Miami may very well turn it around, there were some concerning trends during Sunday’s loss that, hopefully, won’t continue throughout the year.
With that said, here are three ugly observations from Miami’s loss vs Austin.
Football is a peculiar sport, but it is also very simple.
Oftentimes, the need for various formations seems frivolous. In its essence, every formation can be traced back to the standard 4-3-3, including Phil Neville’s preferred back three:
— ⚽️ (@tacticsbyalex) March 7, 2022
That being said, with Sunday afternoon’s result in Austin the “Inter Miami back three experiment” could very well be over.
Miami couldn’t get control of the game in the first 20 minutes. They struggled to build out of the back and Austin’s high press stymied any progress they wanted to make through the middle.
With it being an away match, it was Austin’s responsibility to play attacking football. But, as the game went on Miami never gave themselves a chance at getting back in it. By halftime, Miami was down by two and never seemed to have a game plan.
At the start of the second half, Neville switched the Herons to a more conventional 4-4-2. Realistically, the team only looked better in that formation once Austin stopped pressing because they had a multiple-goal lead.
The Problem with Higuain
This begs the question: why a back three?
In short, Miami needs to find a way to get the best out of their only Designated Player on the field, Gonzalo Higuain. Despite the poor team performance, Higuain had a decent game that saw him get an assist and four key passes.
With the 3-5-2, it disguises a lot of the 34-year-old’s weaknesses. Looking fbref’s advanced stats, Higuain is in the 17th percentile of pressures per 90:
— ⚽️ (@tacticsbyalex) March 6, 2022
That’s not good.
This essentially means that Higuain is not going to press the opposition defense that much.
Because Higuain won’t press, Neville has to switch up his tactics in order to accommodate him:
Guardiola taught us that pressure nowadays plays a huge role in the game, but Phil Neville seems to have missed that lesson.
— MLS Data Viz (@MLSViz) March 7, 2022
Miami pressed less in the final third in 2021 compared to the 2020 season. Against Austin, that much was evident.
The Herons sat in a midblock 5-3-2 formation, daring Austin to pull them out of their defensive shape. The only press that Miam implemented was when Austin pushed the ball out wide:
— ⚽️ (@tacticsbyalex) March 7, 2022
In modern football, you need 11 players to defend starting at the front.
Higuain, as stated above, doesn’t do that.
Neville has a dilemma here.
Higuain is without a doubt, one of Miami’s most potent passers. The 34-year-old had 11 key passes in Miami’s first two matches. At the same time, it’s difficult to play a high press style with him starting up top.
How does Miami fix this? Switch to a 4-4-2 or keep the 3-5-2?
Lowe Was Missed
Naturally, when a defense concedes five goals, fingers will point to the starting center backs. The presence of Damion Lowe was missed. Not only is the Jamaican a vocal leader on the backline, but he also has enough recovery speed and positional awareness to mop up any mistakes.
When fit, Lowe is an automatic starter. Unfortunately, per Neville, the 28-year-old will be out for 10 days, which is a huge blow.
Hopefully, Lowe will be able to make a swift recovery and return to action as quickly as possible.
It’s a long season, and this result may have hurt, but Miami has the opportunity to bounce back against LAFC at home this weekend.
It’ll be a tough match.
LAFC has some of the best attackers in the league with Carlos Vela, Christian Arango, and Brian Rodriguez, and if Miami’s game against Austin was any indication, LA will be able to slice and dice the Herons open on the counter if they find an opening:
🇺🇾 The Pass
🇸🇳 The Finish
🔥 The Energy
— LAFC (@LAFC) March 7, 2022
Depending on what formation Miami rolls out in, they must bounce back from the 5-1 drubbing they received on Sunday.
What better time to do that than at home against one of the best team’s in the league?