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Inter Miami CF v. LA Galaxy – Preview

A game meant to take place last season is finally here.

Inter Miami CF is set to take on LA Galaxy at 3 pm here in Fort Lauderdale. DRV PNK Stadium will host about 8,000 fans in the stands today as the two clubs face off on MLS Opening Weekend. Beckham’s old club, versus the one he owns, the storylines write themselves.

As for what it means for both sides, it’s ideally everything. Both clubs went through highly underwhelming 2020 season’s and kicking off 2021 with three points could mean a ton. For Miami, making DRV PNK Stadium a “fortress” is undoubtedly a priority. And for LA, improving on last season’s sub-par away game record (2-2-5) is theirs.

How Miami Will Lineup

The expectations of Phil Neville in this first game, and his entire first season, are massive. Before landing the Inter Miami job, his coaching resume was well short of what his predecessor, Diego Alonso’s, was. With that said, it doesn’t mean Neville isn’t the man for the job. He knows what he wants to do in terms of his formation and tactics and will try to get the most out of his players.

We’ll likely see a 4-3-3 formation in today’s match, with Pizarro, Matuidi, and Gregore handling the midfield roles. As confirmed by Jorge Mas, John McCarthy will start in between the sticks, playing in front of a backline that’ll likely consist of Joevin Jones, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Nico Figal, and Kelvin Leerdam.

And up top, expect a front three of Robbie Robinson, Gonzalo Higuain, and Lewis Morgan.

Neville spoke highly of LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez before today’s, catch and I’m sure the emphasis on both center-backs, LGP and Figal, will be to limit his chances and be disciplined in and around the box when he’s on the ball.

The midfield three is looking solid. Expect Gregore to be that protector of the backline who looks to connect play from back to front, and Matuidi to play just ahead of him as a box-to-box midfielder. The Gregore signing is massive, considering Miami went without a true center-defensive-mid all of last season. Gregore will get stuck in, make tackles, close down balls early, and relieve Matuidi of a lot of pressure.

Pizarro’s role will be to play as a number 1o. Neville wants his best players on the ball as they’ll look to dominate possession and control the tempo of the game. Pizarro will have to look to provide the front three, especially Higuain, a ton of service in order to create chances and tire out this Galaxy defense.

As for Lewis Morgan, his role will be different from what it was last season under Alonso. Our 2020 MVP won’t just be asked to run down the wing and whip in crosses. Morgan will whip in crosses, sure, but look for him to be taking on defenders more one on one, centrally. Neville wants Morgan on the ball just as much as he wants Pizarro on the ball; they’re the playmakers of this roster. Morgan is in for a better season than his MVP one last year, so lookout.

And then there’s the question of Robbie Robinson. The number one SuperDraft pick in 2020 had a rough season, especially as our striker. With Higuain coming in and Pellegrini off to Fort Lauderdale CF, Neville has looked to convert Robbie into a winger. His time at Clemson saw him playing all over one of the best front three’s NCAA soccer has ever seen. If Neville has coached him well enough, he could be very serviceable for Miami in a wing role.

Game Prediction

LA Galaxy has lost a lot of quality from last year to this. Miami should control the midfield battle and possession, and the chances should come off of that. If the Herons can hold down Chicharito and be efficient in their own final third, Miami could come out with a multiple-goal win.

I’m going with a 3-1 Inter Miami win.

Projecting Inter Miami’s Defensive Plans

After an underwhelming first season in Major League Soccer, Inter Miami CF has had one of the most significant roster turnovers in the league from last year. Starting up top with the front office and head coach, all the way to scouting directors and players, Miami has made copious changes heading into their second year. The addition of Chris Henderson as Sporting Director and Phil Neville as Head Coach (or Gaffer, as I like to say) has already seemed to make MAJOR impacts on this roster as their influence on signings has been very, very evident.

Much of Inter Miami’s problems last year stemmed from inconsistencies in the defense. If Leandro Gonzalez Pirez never signed for the South Florida club, it’s hard to imagine just how much worse their inaugural season could have been. Roman Torres would’ve likely never been traded. The club would’ve probably relied on him, Nico Figal, and Ben Sweat, A.J. DeLaGarza, Andres Reyes, Alvas Powell, or Christian Makoun as options in Diego Alonso’s three-at-the-back formations. Things got ugly for Inter Miami defensively early on in the summer of 2020. It carried on through to the playoff match in Nashville that resulted in a 3-0 defeat due to a lack of identity, focus, and defensive help.

The additions of Ryan Shawcross, Joevin Jones, Kelvin Leerdam, Kieran Gibbs, Patrick Seagrist, Aime Mabika (I think), and Ian Fray were all made by the new men in charge to help create a better defensive identity in Phil Neville’s projected 4-3-3 formation this season. Here’s how:

Wing-Back Additions

One of the weakest points all of last year was our lack of depth and starting quality and the wing-back position. On the left, it was a mix of Ben Sweat and Mikey Ambrose. On the right, we had one game of Alvas Powell in Los Angeles, and it went so poorly that we didn’t see him until the last couple of games of the season. Nealis and Figal were the replacements there.

Sweat and Ambrose have moved on to Austin FC and Atlanta United, respectively. Both guys delivered some excellent moments on the offensive side, including this beauty from Mikey to seal our spot in the playoffs:

Sadly our two left-backs pretty much had more of a positive impact on offense than they did on defense, which led to trouble. As for the right side, Dylan Nealis, in his second year, is still unproven despite a decent rookie season, and Figal should be seen as center-back where statistically, he’s been more effective.

Needless to say, changes were needed. Additions were to be had. Chris Henderson and the Miami Front Office delivered.

It started with a trade for Patrick Seagrist late in 2020 from the New York Red Bulls. The tenth pick of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft only made three appearances for the Red Bulls and is unproven in the league thus far. In a piece for Five Reasons when the deal happened, I discussed how Seagrist would fit into the side but ultimately stated he likely wouldn’t be a full-time starter. He needs more time. That left only Brek Shea as a potential starter at the left-back position until Chris Henderson called a familiar face.

Joevin Jones signed as an MLS Free Agent at the beginning of the month, and it all seemed to be worked out on the left side. The two-time MLS Cup Champion would walk into the starting XI. At 29 years old, coming off a good year with Seattle, Jones is ready to play and should provide some comfort for fans on the defense’s left side. At least until July.

Rumors of Kieran Gibbs joining Inter Miami had been around for quite some time. For the most part, it seemed unlikely after the Jones signing, and even before then too. Gibbs is currently West Bromwich Albion’s highest-paid player and rarely sees the pitch. Getting Gibbs to come to South Florida would have always entailed waiting until his contract ends at the end of June. There’d be no reason for the player to accept a buyout unless the price was very lucrative, and I doubt either West Brom or Inter Miami would have coughed up any money to do so. If you wanted Gibbs, you’d have to be patient. That was always going to be the case, and it is the case now.

The former Arsenal man was announced officially as a future Inter Miami CF player yesterday on a pre-contract agreement. Gibbs is to arrive on July 1st of this year, and depending on his fitness levels, and how Neville sees the team then, he’ll likely walk right into the starting lineup as a left-back.

So what does that do for Jones then? Is he to lose his position in the team? Not really.

Jones has been capable of playing as a winger or wide midfielder in his time with Seattle and the Trinidad & Tobago National Team. Brek Shea, for example, was used as a presence off the bench in wide areas, and when Gibbs arrives, I see Jones as the same kind of threat. Whether it be starting up top or coming off the bench, Jones will be utilized in this team even if Gibbs is to go in and take the starting role at left-back. At the very least, Jones is Gibbs’ immediate replacement if anything is to happen.

On the same day Gibbs was announced, the club also announced Kelvin Leerdam’s arrival.

Leerdam, the former Sounders right-back (it’s all Henderson), was traded to Inter Miami for just $75k in GAM that is spread over the next two seasons. Like Jones, Leerdam is coming off a pretty good year in Seattle and leaves the club having won an MLS title.

He immediately jumps over Nealis as the number one right back on the roster, which does a lot more than solidify the right side. The move for Leerdam now allows Phil Neville to have a starter he can be comfortable with on the right side without having to worry about playing one of his better center backs out of position. With Leerdam as the starter and Nealis as the backup, it’d probably take quite the chain of events for fans to see Figal playing as a right-back this year.

Jones and Gibbs to cover the left side, Leerdam, Nealis to protect the right.  Seagrist and possibly Shea could step in if needed.

The Ideal Center Back Pairing

Very simply put, the additions of starting-caliber wing-backs on both sides shows that Figal is CB option number two, behind LGP. There was talk before the Leerdam signing (from myself included) that Figal was a possible option as a right-back, where he played some last year under Alonso. As mentioned, Nealis is still unproven as a starter. Plus, the Shawcross signing gave additional depth in the middle.

I apologize for the Stoke City fans reading these harsh words about your club legend Ryan Shawcross. Still, when you consider all factors, there’s no way Ryan is beating out Figal or LGP for a starting spot to begin the season. He is the number three option right now, and the front office made the signing to have a third quality center back who can start when needed.

Let’s be honest here, LGP and Figal WILL both have a yellow card accumulation suspension this year; you can count on that.

Let’s also be honest about Shawcross.

He has only played in 247 minutes of first-team football dating back to March of last year. Then he came out in an interview recently stating he was “headed for retirement” until he got a call from South Florida. None of that, including his extended injury history in the last 17 months, shows the signs of a guy who will be coming late to a training camp/pre-season (due to the wait on an International Transfer Certificate [ITC] and P-1 Visa) and be ready to start on opening day.

shawcross injury

The Shawcross issues and the Leerdam signing lead to an inevitable Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Nico Figal center-back pairing to start the season. In the primes of their careers, both guys should be ready to lead this team from the back as they were the best pairing of last year. Not to say it’s the perfect pairing or best pairing in MLS, but with a little bit of added chemistry, help from the midfield, and security possibly by the wing-backs, improvement from this duo should be expected in 2021. Plus, Neville should be very tactically strict, and the club won’t see formation changes from week to week.

In order, my CB depth chart looks like this: LGP, Figal, Shawcross, Makoun, and Mabika (if he’s to sign for the first team). Ian Fray doesn’t make the list after his unfortunate ACL injury at the beginning of preseason.

We wish you the best, Ian.

Projected Opening Day Defensive Lineup

In goal, Miami will field John McCarthy, of course. On the left, Gibbs could start, but that’s in July. Jones will be there until then. Both Figal and LGP will be in the middle as the center-back pairing we should look forward to this year. Shawcross as the immediate backup. And Leerdam will take over the right side with Nealis right behind him on the depth chart.

Compared to last season in which Miami fielded a backline of Robles, Sweat, Figal, Torres, and Powell on opening day in LA, I’d say that this is quite the upgrade.

Inter Miami CF Acquire Patrick Seagrist

Inter Miami CF have traded for former New York Red Bulls left-back Patrick Seagrist.

Seagrist, a 22-year-old left-footed defender, makes his way to South Florida through trade, as Inter Miami has agreed to send a 3rd round 2021 MLS SuperDraft pick to New York. Depending on performance, Miami could also send over $50,000 in General Allocation Money.

He was drafted 1oth overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft by the Red Bulls, which now means Inter Miami roster three top-ten picks from last year’s draft (Robbie Robinson 1st overall, Dylan Nealis 3rd overall).

As a rookie, Seagrist made just three appearances for the Red Bulls. Two of those came in the season’s first two matches in March, but after quarantine and before the MLS is Back Tournament, he lost the starting role and didn’t see the field again until August. With that said, there isn’t much Seagrist footage to look at in MLS, but his time at Marquette University shows more than enough to prove why he was a highly-touted prospect.

Seagrist was named to the All-BIG EAST First teams in both 2018 and 2019. In his senior year, 2019, Seagrist led the BIG EAST in assists as a left-back and was only one of two players for the Golden Eagles to start in every game. Needless to say, he was a very influential player on the collegiate level, just like his new teammate and defender Dylan Nealis was for Georgetown.

After Inter Miami traded away Ben Sweat to Austin FC for $100k in GAM, it was known the club would be in the market for a left-back. Not only did Miami lose Ben Sweat, but it was recently announced that Mikey Ambrose too would be leaving the club as he signed a contract with Atlanta United. Both Sweat and Ambrose, other than maybe Shea, were the only two players to play left-back in the 2020 season.

The Fit

Seagrist is a true, left-footed left-back who shows brilliant soccer IQ at a young age. His college tape shows a player who loves to get forward and provide service all across the pitch. A lot of what he does going forward relies on his left foot; whether it’d be an over the top pass or cross, it was mostly on the left foot from the left side, and this would be a perfect parallel to Lewis Morgan’s services on the right. He showed innate ability to find runs from attackers in any pocket of space or across the field, thus leading to why he was the top assist man in his conference.

His soccer IQ also helps his side when going forward, and this doesn’t solely pertain to what he does on the ball. At Marquette, Seagrist was in a system where it was in the instruction that he make overlapping runs and dart forward to help out on the wings. Inter Miami saw a lot of this in Ben Sweat’s better performances on the season, and Seagrist can mimic that.

As a defender, Seagrist has to become a little more polished. He stands at 6ft tall but is quite skinny, weighing in at about 170lbs (data from Marquette’s website). The physicality in MLS could stand to be a problem for Seagrist. His ability to read the game and position himself well does provide an advantage when it comes to interceptions and closing down space. The main worry here is in 1 on 1 scenarios if he’s beaten off the ball. Although Seagrist does have a bit of pace for running up and down the pitch, getting beaten by MLS veterans and or other physical, rapid wingers is a lot to try and recover from.

One positive in his defending, however, is his ability to win and redirect headers. Standing 6ft tall, Seagrist can use his height and decent jumping ability to his advantage by winning headers from long balls or clearances from the opposition. He did so on the collegiate level.

At 22, there’s no need to rush to have him as a starter. His situation is a lot like Dylan Nealis’, except Nealis NEEDED to play after Powell proved he wasn’t the guy. Both Nealis and Seagrist as defenders are about on the same level, but the newly acquired left-back has much more upside in attacking play.

Trade Grade: B+

Seagrist, depending on who Inter Miami can bring in, likely won’t be a full-time starter, but look for him to make some appearances in the side, especially if Alonso uses wing-backs from time to time this year. That role probably suits him best.

But a low risk, high upside trade for the Herons is a good way to start their offseason heading into 2021. After the departure of their only two left-backs, to bring in a younger one whos a true left-footed player with a ton of potential is a quality transaction.

Inter Miami

Inter Miami CF’s Playoff Chances

As it stands, Inter Miami CF currently hold the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with three games remaining. After beating Orlando City Saturday and a Chicago Fire draw later that night, the Herons will go into their next match holding the conference’s final playoff spot.

Due to the shortened season, MLS decided to alter the playoffs and award four extra teams in the Eastern Conference and two extra teams in the Western Conference a playoff berth. So, instead of the normal six teams from years prior, ten Eastern Conference teams will compete in the MLS Playoffs. Inter Miami’s negative record of 6-3-11 (W-D-L) has given them a total of 21 points over 20 games. That is NOT a great record, but in a year like 2020, it’s still enough to end a week in a playoff position.

The 10th spot

Inter Miami is only in the 10th position due to a tiebreaker over Chicago. As Chicago (21 pts) only has 5 wins, and Inter Miami has 6, the Herons are above in the standings. One thing Miami lacks right now over Chicago is a game in hand. While Miami has played 20 total matches, Chicago has only played 19. As much as a fan would like for Inter Miami’s fate to be in the team’s own hands, they still need to hope for results around the league.

Both teams play away games Wednesday night against respectable opponents. Miami will travel to Texas as they take on FC Dallas, while Chicago will travel to Subaru Park to take on the Philadelphia Union. The Union right now are in a crazy run of form. They’ve only dropped points in one of their last five games, and beating Toronto FC Saturday by a score of 5-0 was more than enough to let Philadelphia overtake the Canadian side for first place in the East. FC Dallas, however, has only won one of their last seven games but is now in a very tight playoff race out West. They surely won’t be looking to drop any points at home; therefore, Inter will have to be on their game.

These games will prove to be critical at the season’s conclusion. Inter Miami nor Chicago will be favored in their matchups, but a betting man might tell you that Inter Miami holds the edge. If things work out in Inter Miami’s favor (a win for IMCF, a loss for CFFC), Chicago will still have a game in hand but will be down three points and two numbers in the win column, which would be massive for Inter going into the final two weeks.

Moving up?

Another game other than Chicago-Philadelphia that is important for Inter Miami is the Tuesday night matchup between Montreal and Nashville. Montreal (23 pts) currently sits in 9th place with a two-point lead over Inter Miami. Miami missed their first opportunity to overtake Montreal in the standings when they lost 2-1 to the Impact last week. Had Miami won, they’d feel a lot more comfortable with their playoff hopes. Depending on Tuesday’s result, Miami would have another chance to overtake Montreal in the standings. A loss or a tie for Montreal would put them on 24 points or 23 points, with a -9 or worse goal differential, and just seven wins. If Miami can capitalize on a Montreal loss or tie with a win over FC Dallas the next day, they’ll head into their following match sitting in the East’s 9th place.

Going much further than 9th to finish the season is A LOT to ask for. Though still possible, the teams ahead will have to do a lot of losing. Nashville SC sits in 8th with 25 points, New York Red Bulls are in 7th with 26 points, and beyond that, it is not really worth trying to come up with scenarios for.

The best outcome for Inter Miami maybe a tie in Tuesday’s match between Nashville and Montreal, but it’s probably in the team’s best interest to end up with a Nashville victory so they can overtake Montreal in the table solely on points.

Past the Midweek Games

If Inter Miami does win Wednesday and both Montreal and Chicago lose in their respective midweek matchups, the team’s fate will then mathematically lay in their own hands. Montreal would be down on points, and if Miami wins out, they cannot be caught by any other team from that point on. Winning is the key here, though. Remember, this is an expansion team whose only been able to draw up 6 wins over 20 games thus far. Not only that, but there’s only been one time the entire season where Inter Miami has won just TWO games in a row. While looking at the chances, it must be taken into account that the team is being asked to win their final three games in a row after winning the game prior.

Past the Dallas game, Miami plays Toronto FC away and then are home vs. FC Cincinnati to finish the season. For Montreal, other than Nashville, their last two opponents are Orlando City and D.C. United. And for Chicago, they’ll round out the season against Nashville, Minnesota, and NYCFC.

In these last couple of weeks, Inter Miami could really use all possible points. A tie in any remaining game would mean Montreal or Chicago would need to drop points in another game outside of the midweek games coming up. It’d be a lot to ask for.

If Miami could make it three wins from their last three and find a final run of form, they are likely in. If not, get ready for fans to cheer ever so hard against Montreal and Chicago.

Match Recap: Inter Miami CF vs. Orlando City SC

Inter Miami sealed their first-ever win over Orlando City Saturday night. Julian Carranza led the Herons with a brace as Miami sealed a 3-2 victory at Inter Miami CF Stadium.

The long-awaited first home match for Inter Miami did not disappoint. After a fabulous first 45 minutes of play, Miami saw out the victory on its home turf. Orlando was unable to snatch a point late in the game, and Miami came away with its first points of the 2020 MLS Regular Season.

First Half

In the 12th minute of play, Carranza had won a ball in midfield that fell to Rodolfo Pizarro. The Mexican International dribbled right at a defender with his striker alongside. Carranza received a perfectly weighted and timed pass from Pizarro as he overlapped him, and tucked the ball into the near post for a 1-0 lead.

Miami’s defense was beaten just 6 minutes later, as Orlando rookie Darryl Dike bodied Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to the ground, which led to a turn and a shot on target. Goalkeeper Luis Robles did well to make the first save, however, Andres Reyes or Ben Sweat couldn’t clear the ball, which led to Dike striking home the rebound.

At 1-1, Miami was still playing inspired. Winning balls in the midfield and organized defending translated into some positive play. A lot of the first half featured Inter Miami progressing into the final third with countless forward dribbles and passes. The use of Lewis Morgan on the wing seemed to be in the game plan for Diego Alonso’s side, but ultimately the opposite side provided Miami’s second goal.

In the 22nd minute, Sweat had received a pass from the midfield as he ran down the wing. With his head up, he saw Carranza making a run at the back post. Immediately Sweat put in a fantastic cross that Carranza was able to head perfectly. From the left side of the keeper at the back post, the striker lofted his headed attempt across to the top of the goal in an unreachable position. Just like that, Miami was back on top at 2-1.

Pizarro and Carranza were a delight to watch in the first 45 minutes. The play from the two going forward showcased what this team can bring on the offensive front. Carranza was extremely active in the entire match. He won a handful of freekicks for Miami and bothered Orlando defenders for the majority of the first half. The 2-1 lead at the halftime break was a result of inspiring play from the whole team.

Second Half

Inter Miami was able to carry this momentum straight out of the gate. The tactics from the first half did not change as Miami found themselves in a scoring position only three minutes into the restart.

Defender Nicolas Figal, who found himself a lot of freedom to go forward this game, played a backheel pass to Morgan on the wing. Morgan was able to put a ball into the box that found a backward header from Victor Ulloa that landed perfectly to Pizarro’s foot. In the most composed manner, Miami’s Number 10 slotted the ball into the bottom corner to give them a 3-1 lead.

Just seconds later after the goal, Carranza was on a break and found Pizarro with a headed through ball. He took a shot just inside the box and barely missed his chance for a second as he struck the inside of the far post. Even up 3-1, Miami fans were able to watch a hungry, attacking side.

After three yellow cards in a quick 13 minutes for Miami (53′, 62′, 66′), it was evident legs became heavy. Orlando had subbed on Chris Mueller at the half, who made quite the impact in the latter part of the match.

Immediately following a triple substitution for Miami, which featured Brek Shea, who made his first appearance for the club, Orlando scored a second goal. Dike did well to body LGP yet again and played a back pass to Mueller on the corner of the box. Mueller did well to send in a cross to the head of Luis Nani on the back post, and Robles had no chance. Now 78 minutes in, Miami was pressured to hold on.

Orlando threw numbers forward in the last 10 minutes plus 5 of added time, but ultimately Miami stood strong. Just like that, Inter Miami had finally won a game.

 

The 3-2 win will go down as a monumental day for Inter Miami. The first win and the first home game are two huge steps to take as a club. Miami will look to carry this momentum into Wednesday as they take on Atlanta United for the first time.

Inter Miami

Five Reasons to be Excited about Inter Miami (1/5)

Inter Miami return to MLS action on August 22 against in-state rivals Orlando City. For each day leading up to the game, I’ll be going into detail explaining one of my five reasons to be excited about Inter Miami.  These five reasons, and dates of all and each coming piece, are listed below:

Reasons to be Excited About Inter Miami

  1. New Signings (August 17)
  2. Return of Robbie? (August 18)
  3. Playing with More Experience (August 19)
  4. Potential Acquisitions (August 20)
  5. First Home Game (August 21)

Matchday will feature a pre and post-game piece as well.

New Signings

Suddenly and surprisingly, Inter Miami went out and acquired Blaise Matuidi. At 33 years old, Matuidi instantly fills in a hole in the midfield that Inter Miami struggled with in the recent Orlando tournament.

Matuidi’s role over the last couple of years has varied in terms of position. As a left-back, left midfielder, and primarily a center defensive midfielder, Matuidi proved to both Juventus and the French National team he’s a vital asset to any cup winning side. At the world cup in 2018, Didier Deschamps used Matuidi on the left side of the field the entire tournament. He played in five of the seven tournament games, started in four which included the final, that of which they won.

His qualities are more focused on winning the ball in the midfield Diego Alonso will likely use him in this way. Alonso’s formations vary between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3. Both would cater to a player like Matuidi as he’s capable of being a ball winner, but also connecting play between the center backs and any attacking players. The French National team did use a 4-2-3-1 in which Matuidi played a left mid role, but with players like N’golo Kante and Paul Pogba, the midfield being locked down wasn’t in much trouble. Victor Ulloa and Wil Trapp were not of much help at any point in the Orlando tournament for Miami’s midfield, and oftentimes Rodolfo Pizarro was having to trackback. To relieve Pizarro of these duties is exactly what Matuidi will likely do. With Pizarro getting to focus more on creating while relying on Matuidi midfield to win the ball, hopefully, more chances are created.

Before the tournament, Inter Miami also announced the signing of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez from Club Tijuana of Mexico. Another major issue with Miami’s tournament games had been individual mistakes and “shakiness” at the back.

Pirez has a tremendous MLS resume at just 28 years old. Before leaving for Tijuana, he was named an MLS All-Star for the first time in 2019. Pirez also won the MLS Cup with Atlanta in 2018, one of the best teams the league has ever seen and was fourth in voting for MLS Defender of the year in 2017 and 2018. Pirez was the anchor for Atlanta United’s over the three years he was with them, having started every game he appeared in, even all 5 playoff matches that led them to MLS glory.

Miami’s defense, which is led by Nicolas Figal at the moment, hasn’t been too promising. Alonso has switched between both a three-back and four-back formation, but both have led to massive slip-ups. Bringing in Pirez will give Alonso solid starting quality which the team desperately needs. Looking at three in the back with Pirez included, he’d likely see himself playing alongside Figal and Andre Reyes. Figal is an aggressor and enforcer who likes to get up the pitch at times, and a player like Pirez would be able to allow this to happen as he is so solid defensively. The wing-backs have also struggled massively in this formation, mostly on the left side. Pirez like Figal is also a dominant physical presence that may have opposing sides struggle with their attacking play.

Matuidi and Pirez are set to make instant improvements to the Miami side. We will likely see Pirez hit the field first as Matuidi is not set for an appearance for a couple of weeks.

Look for tomorrow’s piece on the potential return of our striker Robbie Robinson.

 

 

Grading Inter Miami after another loss

Losses: 3. Goals: 2. Answers: None.  That is how you could sum up Inter Miami’s winless and point-less (but not pointless) performance in the MLS Is Back tournament group stage, which ended with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of NYCFC on Monday morning and a last place finish with 0 points in Group A. Grading Inter Miami reflects the team’s uncertainty.

We saw old mistakes and new questions arise for Diego Alonso’s squad, which played very much like an expansion team in a must-win game that turned into an uninspiring one-way ticket back to Miami.

On to the grades.

Important note: Only those who played at least 30 minutes will be graded. Those who didn’t will receive an Incomplete unless they did something otherworldly or were vital to the final outcome of the match.

Grading Inter Miami

Luis Robles (5):

He bore no responsibility in NYCFC’s goal, left out to dry by a defense that took a nap at the most inopportune time. Having said that, he never was a savior in this tournament and the final match was no exception.

Mikey Ambrose (3):

Ambrose was daydreaming about the new Splash Mountain ride when he got caught ball watching and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi slipped by him. Contributed nothing on offense either, got replaced by Ben Sweat in the 68th minute. Just a forgettable night overall.

Jorge Figal (4):

Figal had a good first half and could have scored with a header in the 35th minute, but he was once again exposed as one of the main culprits in NYCFC’s goal, losing sight of Shradi by no communicating with Ambrose and with no closing speed to make up for it. Alonso and the Inter Miami fans expect much more out of him.

Román Torres (6):

The Panamanian center back imposed himself when pressed to action and prevented what could have been New York´s second goal with a great sweep.

Dylan Nealls (5): Got lost in the shuffle before exiting the match in the 79th minute by Alvin Powell.

Will Trapp (4): NYCFC had possession 60% of the time, and that was in part because of the fact that Trapp could never assert himself in the heart of midfield. Replaced by Lee Nguyen in the 68th minute.

Víctor Ulloa (4): Was he auditioning for “Casper”? Because he was a ghost and went unnoticed before coming off the field for Jay Chapman in the 79th minute.

Matías Pellegrini (3): Miami´s lowest point along with Ambrose, but even more noticeable since he was supposed to be one of the catalysts on offense but did absolutely nothing. Could never connect with Pizarro or generate a single decent chance. Alonso took him out for Julián Carranza in the 68th minute.

Rodolfo Pizarro (5): He tried. Unsuccessfully, but he tried. The Mexican star was clearly frustrated, isolated in an island by the NYCFC defense. He’s unable to create a single opportunity for himself or others.

Lewis Morgan (6):

Morgan was Inter Miamí´s best player of the tournament. And he was the only one remotely close to destabilizing the opposing defense with his speed. His shot from medium distance was Inter´s lone non-header chance, and it went just high over the crossbar.

Juan Agudelo (4): Started out well with a beautiful header that didn´t put Miami in the lead because of a great save. But the Colombian striker did less and less after that and ended up going to the locker room before the final whistle because of a childish red card after pushing off in the box in the 90th minute.

Grading Inter Miami: the Others

Lee Nguyen (Inc.): Nguyen was supposed to give a spark to the Miami offense. But all he did was put the defense at risk losing the ball at midfield and creating a scoring chance for the opponent as a result.

Julián Carranza (Inc.): Alonso put him in too late with Inter Miami already down 0-1. And his partnership with Agudelo as dual strikers never blossomed.

Jay Chapman (Inc.): Meh.

Alvas Powell (Inc.): He was in the match?

Ben Sweat (Inc.): If Ambrose isn´t the answer, Sweat continues to prove that he isn´t either.

Starting Streak: Inter Miami CF Suffer Fourth Straight Loss

Kacper Pryzbylko’s 63rd minute goal led Philadelphia Union to a tight, 2-1 victory over Inter Miami CF.

In a game that featured over 30 fouls, a red card, and some VAR controversy, the Union were able to see out the victory despite Inter Miami’s late push for an equalizer. The three points gained by Philadelphia secured their spot in the knockout stages of the MLS is Back Tournament. For Inter Miami however, no points from two games only gives them a small chance to advance. They’ll need to win on Monday vs. NYCFC and hope that the three points, and whatever goal differential they finish with, is enough to be a top-4 third place team. Philadelphia will go on to battle Orlando City on July 20th to determine the winner of group A.

The Match’s Opening Moments

Philadelphia opened the scoring with a very early goal. In the fifth minute, Inter Miami struggled to clear the ball away in a threatening area. Robles was faced with a hard, low shot from Kai Wagner, where his touch wasn’t enough to keep it out of the back of the net. This is now Robles’ second conceded goal in two games where he had a touch, but ultimately could not keep the ball from getting through.

Following the goal, Inter Miami responded with positive play. They controlled the game from that point forward, and were rewarded with a goal from a counterattack in the 36th minute.

Lewis Morgan was quick to dribble up the midfield only to find Rodolfo Pizarro for a nice 1-2 at the end of the box. Morgan then played a through ball to Matias Pellegrini, who found Pizarro back in the box and after some nifty footwork, scored.

Miami stayed on the front foot to finish out the first half, and luckily for Philadelphia, no more goals were scored. When the second half whistle blew, Miami still looked to commit numbers forward and control the game.

Inter Miami CF Fought in Second Half

Committing numbers forward gave Miami three good chances to start the second half. Julian Carranza failed to play a perfect ball in correctly. Although the defenders were split, Andre Blake was quick off of his line to stop the threat. Morgan was also faced with a great opportunity but a shot on his weaker foot did not have enough power behind it to beat Blake. Pizarro then had a great run that put him inside the area, but was unlucky to find Carranza on the edge of the six yard box.

In the 63rd minute, Pizarro was fouled about 25 yards out in the corner of the field. No yellow was given. But a failed free kick cross led to Brenden Aaronson sprinting down the field only to find himself with the ball at his feet in a 3-on-1 situation. He laid off the ball to Pryzbylko who did great to get the ball on his left foot on the end of the box and find the bottom corner with a shot. Robles was beaten for the second time in the match. Inter were down by a goal with less than 30 minutes to play.

Subs Doing Work

MLS Veteran Lee Nguyen was subbed on along with MLS debutant Jerome Kiesewetter in the 68th minute following the goal.

In the 74th minute, Carranza was given another great through ball with which he failed to control.

Just a minute later, and seven minutes after being subbed on, Kiesewetter’s efforts in the press almost led him to winning a penalty for Inter Miami. After a long pause in play following a foul, and a review from VAR, a penalty call was disallowed after claims of a handball. Kiesewetter would argue he was pushed in the back.

In what was an amazing chance for Inter to tie the game, Roman Torres won a header from a corner. However, it was met by the crossbar. No luck for Inter Miami late seems to be the theme amongst their first four games.

Victor Ulloa and Ben Sweat were subbed off in the 87th minute for Jay Chapman and Mikey Ambrose. Ulloa looked to be injured after making a game-saving tackle just minutes before. But he walked off the field on his own power.

The eight added minutes gave Inter Miami more than enough time to create chances, and they did. Unfortunately, after a headed effort from Carranza and a missed opportunity from Chapman inside the box, Inter could not convert.

After throwing numbers forward, Miami were caught again with another Philadelphia counterattack. The attack resulted in Andres Reyes fouling a Union player. Reyes would then be seeing his second yellow card of the match. The red card shown will now prohibit Reyes from playing in the match vs. NYCFC on Monday. Diego Alonso will be forced to change some defensive tactics due to the suspension.

Disappointing End

Inter Miami finished the game with 55% possession, over 70 more completed passes, and 3 more shots unblocked. The eye-test would conclude that Inter were unlucky to not come out of this match with at least a point.

July 20th, 9 AM EST is when Inter Miami CF kick off again, this time facing NYCFC. Both teams have started off the tournament with two losses. And they will both be looking for victory and a shot at qualifying for the knockout round.

Grading Inter Miami After 2-1 Loss

Inter Miami is the soccer version of the pre-tank Dolphins of the 2000s. You can see the flashes of brilliance and the capability to go toe-to-toe with anyone, anytime…but you can also see the brain farts, the lack of a killer instinct and the overall lack of discipline of a team that is not only still looking for its first ever MLS win, but also is on life support in the MLS Is Back tournament. Grading Inter Miami is not easy.

All Inter Miami can hope for now is to advance as one of the four best third-place teams with a win against NYCFC next Monday and a combination of other results.

Let’s get into the individual grades for Miami, shall we?

Important note: Only those who played at least 30 minutes will be graded. Those who didn’t will receive an Incomplete unless they did something otherworldly or were vital to the final outcome of the match.

Grading Inter Miami

Luis Robles (6): Second consecutive match with two goals allowed for the captain and 36-year-old veteran, but he bore no real responsibility in either one and prevented the final score from being 3-1 with a couple of key interventions during injury time.

Jorge Figal (2): The 26-year-old from Argentina was mediocre in the tournament debut, but straight up awful against Philadelphia. Incredibly naïve, out of position and nowhere to be seen during the Union counterattack that caught the Inter defense with its pants down after a basic free kick in its favor.

Román Torres (4): Made the crossbar tremble in what would have been the 83rd minute equalizer, but also fell into the defense´s general confusion and did nothing to fix it.

Andrés Reyes (3): Received two yellow cards that turned into a red and left Miami without his services for the final match of the group stage. Slow and indecisive, that may not be such a bad thing.

Ben Sweat (4): Got caught with his metaphorical pants down as the last man standing between the Union attackers and Robles during the second goal. Would not have been that much more embarrassing if his shorts had been pulled down.

Víctor Ulloa (5): Got lost in the shuffle, nowhere near as good as against Orlando City. Couldn´t establish himself and seemed torn between trying to lend a hand to a confused defense or help the offensive effort. Did neither in the end.

Will Trapp (3,5): A night to forget as he was personally responsible for the first Union goal, out of position and couldn´t cover his man down the right side before the cross. Yellow carded in the 38th minute, unceremoniously replaced in the 68th.

Rodolfo Pizarro (6,5): His back-heel pass and goal were a thing of beauty, but he also came and went in the match without being able to assert himself like Miami needed him too. He made a difference, but needs to do it more consistently for 90+ minutes.

Other Grades:

Lewis Morgan (7): The best Inter Miami had to offer in the entire night. The way he orchestrated the goal blazing down the middle before connecting with Pizarro. Finding Pellegrini at full speed was something that should be taught to kids everywhere. His speed was trouble for the Union defense all night long.

Matías Pellegrini (5): Assisted Pizarro for the goal, and nothing else. Muted effort for the Argentinian winger. Replaced by Kiesewetter in the 68th minute.

Julián Carranza (3): I said he is a better striker than Agudelo, but he wasn´t against Philly.   Scatterbrained and wasteful. Could have scored once in the first half and twice in the second. Especially in the 72nd minute with the score 1-1 and a golden opportunity all alone against the goalie that went for naught. He thought he was offside and reacted too late when he realized that he wasn´t.

Jerome Kiesewetter (5): An almost-header of his deflected by a Union defender nearly resulted in a penalty kick for Miami. But VAR reversed it correctly.

Lee Nguyen (4): Missing in action for 30 minutes after coming in for Trapp.

Mikey Ambrose (Inc.): Not much he could do after coming in for Sweat in the 87th minute.

Jay Chapman (Inc.):   Unable to generate much of anything after entering the match alongside Ambrose.   

Inter Miami

Orlando City 2-1 Inter Miami: Grading Inter Miami

Inter Miami had its official induction as a Miami team delivering its fans the first “What the hell just happened?” loss of its brief and winless existence as Nani completed Orlando City’s comeback victory with a 97th minute goal that sealed the fate of Diego Alonso’s squad in the inaugural match of the MLS Is Back tournament.

The match was a rollercoaster of emotions with goals, crazy injuries and a moving Black Lives Matter demonstration by both teams. However, Inter Miami itself was a mixed bag. They will have to make important tweaks ahead of a must-win matchup against the Chicago Fire next Tuesday.

Let’s take a look at how each Inter Miami player fared by grading them individually from 1 to 10.

Important note: Only those who played at least 30 minutes will be graded. Those who didn’t will receive an Incomplete unless they did something otherworldly or were vital to the final outcome of the match.

Grading Inter Miami

Luis Robles (5): Inter Miami’s goalkeeper started out great with an amazing diving save in the 22nd minute with the match still 0-0, but he could and should have done more in Orlando City’s first goal as the ball crossed the box and he remained paralyzed under the crossbar. Nothing for him to do in Nani’s goal.

 

Andrés Reyes (7): Reyes was having a great night as the leader of the five-man defense until Dom Dwyer’s vicious elbow sent him to the hospital in the 58th minute. The Colombian back showed great poise, and his absence destabilized the Inter Miami defense. The tying Orlando City goal came just a couple of minutes after his exit.

Ben Sweat (3): The complete opposite of Reyes. Insecure and full of doubts. He tried to score off a free kick with his hand, but he is no Maradona. He looked lost, and to make things worse Nani´s goal came off a silly deflection off his shin as he clumsily stumbled into a teammate trying to clear a cross in the heart of the box.

Mikey Ambrose (5): The left back was a non-factor against his former team. Didn´t have trouble on defense, but didn´t contribute on offense either.

Jorge Figal (3): The Argentinian veteran is supposed to be a steadying presence, but instead he seemed to be skittish and unnerved by Mueller and especially Dwyer, Orlando City´s only “true” forward.  He wasn’t paying attention and the ball deflected off him after the cross before it found Nani.

Dylan Nealls (3,5): Nealls lost to Nani way more than he won in their personal duel. The difference in speed and talent between him and a world-class player like Nani was evident as the world-class Portuguese midfielder left him in the dust before the assist for Orlando’s first goal.

Will Trapp (6): The central midfielder had the hockey assist in Agudelo´s goal and was crisp and tried to partner up with Matías Pellegrini before being replaced by Jay Chapman in the 79th minute. All in all, correct performance.

Víctor Ulloa (8): Very versatile next to Trapp and did a great job appearing in the box by surprise to serve Agudelo the scoring chance in a silver platter. Inter Miami´s Man of the Match.

Matías Pellegrini (7,5): Talking about scoring chances in silver platters, the 20-year-old Argentinian midfielder was the team´s main and best offensive threat all match long. He should have had an assist in the 8th minute with a great play, but Agudelo missed the point blank shot in the most unexplainable way.

 

Lewis Morgan (6): Another good option on offense down the right side, but he needs to stand out more if he wants to have steady minutes in the long run.

Juan Agudelo (6): Started out like a 2 missing the aforementioned chance created by Pellegrini´s cross, and then tried to score from midfield in the first half. Credit to him, though, for being where a striker should be to score. Got lost in the shuffle during the last 40 minutes as Orlando City dominated.

SUBS

Rodolfo Pizarro (6): The Mexican star came in for Reyes in the 58th minute and tried to provide a spark with his talent and creativity.

Julian Carranza (Inc.): Replaced Agudelo in the 73rd  minute. He is the superior striker and got yellow carded 10 minutes later.

Luis Argudo (Inc.): Came into the match in the 78th minute in place of Morgan as part of a triple substitution by coach Diego Alonso.

Lee Nguyen (Inc.): Nguyen is trying to regain his 2014 form and was dynamic during his 20 minutes of action in place of Pellegrini in the 78th minute. Don´t be surprised if he is more of a factor in the next two matches.

Jay Chapman (Inc.): Came in for Trapp. Almost made it 2-1 Inter Miami in the 88th minute with a header that just missed.