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Inter Miami CF Defeat Toronto FC 3-1, Extend Home Winning Streak

Inter Miami CF extended their home winning streak Saturday night after a 3-1 win over Toronto FC. A brace from Rodolfo Pizarro will lead the headlines, as his renowned “joker” celebration came out for the second and third time all season in Saturday’s match.

The win marked the fourth time in a row that Inter Miami has won at home, and this comes after not winning a home match all season before.

Rodolfo Pizarro opened the scoring in the 15th minute after a Gonzalo Higuain pass found him at the top of the box. Pizarro beat his defender with a chop and beautifully placed the ball into the back of the net with a left-footed finish that found the bottom corner. The play stemmed from a Kieran Gibbs sliding interception to take back possession from Toronto, which highlighted how well Miami pressed upfront in the match.

Just twenty minutes later, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, from his center back position, found himself in a place to make an outside-the-foot pass through to Robbie Robinson on the left-wing. Robinson received the pass in stride and beat Toronto defender and former United States International Omar Gonzalez to get a left-footed shot past the keeper and right under the crossbar for the goal.

With a 2-0 lead, Miami was in the driver’s seat. Miami was able to hold on to the 2-0 lead in the first half despite a couple of nervy possessions in which the defense gave up a couple of fouls in good areas.

Toronto came very close to scoring on a free kick taken by the 5’2 man, Yeferson Sotledo, in the 27th minute as he hit the crossbar from just outside the box.

It was only right after the second half began that Inter Miami scored their third goal. LGP found Pizarro with an over-the-top through ball, and he finished with a chip over the keeper from outside of the box. It was a magnificent finish from the Mexican International, who was on pace to score the first hattrick in the club’s history.

He was later subbed off before he could achieve that feat.

Noticeably, Pizarro walked off the pitch disappointed, and Neville touched on it post-game.

“He wanted the match ball; he wants to score goals,” Neville stated. “I loved his reaction when he got angry when he came off.”

Kieran Gibbs became the fourth goalscorer of the night, but not how he or the club would have wanted. Toronto lined up for a set-piece, whipped in a cross, and Gibbs scored his second header of the season as an own goal.

That own goal ruined Miami’s chances of getting their second clean sheet on the year. As they still search for their first shutout since May 2nd (0-0 away at Nashville), it’s a good thing the offense is clicking and scoring goals.

Miami matched their highest goal number in a game with three and have now scored six in their last two games, both in which they won.

The 3-1 scoreline, in the end, was a great and much-needed result for Miami as they defeated the worst team in the Eastern Conference. At the same time, with Chicago’s loss to Orlando City following the match’s conclusion in Fort Lauderdale, Miami jumped to 11th place in the Eastern Conference.

Inter Miami CF ended the night five points out of a playoff spot, with two games in hand on the teams above them.

On Friday, August 27th, Miami plays in Orlando to take on OCSC for the third and final time in the MLS Regular Season.

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.

Shawcross and Gregore Sign for Inter Miami

Both Ryan Shawcross and Gregore de Magalhães da Silva are on their way to South Florida ahead of the 2021 MLS Season. Inter Miami CF announced both signings this week (on Feb. 20 and Feb 24, respectively), and the roster under Phil Neville is beginning to take shape.

It has not been reported how long Ryan Shawcross has been signed for, but for Gregore, it’s a 4-year deal with an option in the fifth.

When it comes to money, it seems as though Shawcross’s deal falls under the normal salary budget. Gregore’s contract will join Blaise Matuidi’s and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s under the club’s Targeted Allocation Money. Both Shawcross and Gregore will also take up international roster slots.

Is Shawcross the Starter?

It would be tough to argue that a long-time Premier League veteran, long-time Stoke City captain at just 33-years old, could NOT be the starter, but I’m here to do just that.

However, this argument relies on the Phill Neville variable and how he will use players after seeing them for 6 weeks in training camp. He specifically referred to Jorge Figal as a right-back in his introductory press conference a couple of weeks back, and if that does end up being the case, this argument is fully invalid.

If Figal is to be seen as a center-back, though, there’s no reason for Shawcross to be used as anything but cover and depth behind an LGP/Figal center-back partnership.

It’s not to say that I don’t believe Ryan Shawcross is an excellent defender who possesses highly valuable leadership qualities that are hard to come by, but there are other things at play here.

Shawcross has only played 247 minutes of first-team football for Stoke, dating back to March of 2020, and a large part of it has to do with injury.

shawcross injury

Given this injury history and lack of minutes in professional games, saying that 6 weeks of preseason may not be enough is an understatement.

There is absolutely no reason for him to be forced on as the starter especially given his age and unfamiliarity with the league. There is also no pressure for him to perform like a starter right away because this is not what would be considered a “big-money signing.” Remember, not a DP, not using TAM or GAM on him, no special MLS rules. Just a simple signing under the normal salary budget. Oh, and it was a free transfer.

Down the line, Shawcross’s value will come from subbing on late in games to hold the lead, veteran presence, his starts for when LGP and Figal are either injured or suspended, etc.

If he is to come from England and get out of the MLS pre-season in TIP-TOP shape, then sure, maybe he’s the starter. But I don’t see him being fully fit for 90 minutes in an MLS match by the middle of April. I also look forward to being proven wrong.

Neville’s Midfield with Gregore

Until Matuidi came in, Inter Miami’s midfield being run by Victor Ulloa and Wil Trapp was a borderline disaster. The backline seemed to have had no protection, and the pair could not help transition the ball from the defense to their attackers up top. Bringing in Matuidi helped a ton, but unfortunately, Trapp nor Ulloa was good enough or consistent enough to solidify themselves as Blaise’s partner.

With the expectation that Phil Neville will try to run his favored 4-3-3 formation or a variation of it, Matuidi is definitely going to need help in the middle of the pitch. Signing Gregore for a reported $4 million and using TAM on him is worth it.

Gregore is an all-around defensive midfielder who excels at winning the ball in the middle of the pitch. He will provide the backline a ton of protection with his ball-winning skills and ability to read the game well. His tackling is outstanding; No nonsense, get stuck in style, and puts 100% behind winning the ball all the time.

He also will relieve Matuidi of a ton of defensive duties. He’s so good at covering the back that Matuidi will now be able to drive forward (comfortably, with protection) as a playmaker alongside Pizarro out of the midfield.

Gregore short passing ability is also good enough that he will be able to provide service of the ball from the backline to the attackers. He’s not shy to get forward when he needs to, and he possesses the quality to score a banger every once in a while.

I see Gregore starting as many games as he is possibly fit for, and right away. You needed a midfield pairing for Matuidi before, and now even more so in a Neville style 4-3-3. Way to get your man, Chris Henderson.

Overall

Both signings were very, very good for Inter Miami. Shawcross on a relatively small deal for what he could provide and one of, if not the best midfielders in Brazil over on a deal that doesn’t cost you a DP slot but will turn out to produce like one.

Shawcross and Gregore have bolstered the squad tremendously, but I don’t think that the Front Office is quite done making moves. Expect more before pre-season.

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.

     

 

 

 

How Major League Soccer will Return

Major League Soccer will return with all 26 teams set to arrive in Orlando starting June 24. The “MLS is Back Tournament” will take place between July 8-August 11. Yesterday morning, the league announced all rules and new COVID-19 regulations for the tournament, which will take place at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort in Florida. The return is just a few weeks away.

The Group Stage (July 8 – July 23)

In a World Cup style format, teams are to to be placed amongst six different randomly drawn groups. The Western and Eastern Conference will have 3 groups each, but different layouts when it comes to how many teams will be placed in each. Group A will feature Orlando City SC along with five other teams from the Eastern Conference. However, Groups C and E will feature four clubs each from the East. Atlanta United and Toronto FC will split into the remaining of the two Eastern groups. On the Western side, groups B, D, and F, will all have four teams each. LAFC, Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake will be placed in separately in these groups.

In a traditional style group stage in any tournament around the world, each team has a chance to play against all the other teams in the group. With the league announcing there will only be three group stage matches, participants in Group A won’t be able to faceoff against the entire group. To aid the grouping and numbers, Nashville SC will temporarily play as an Eastern Conference team. All three group stage matches will count towards the 2020 regular season. The draw for the groups will happen this afternoon at 3:30 EST.

The Knockout Tournament (July 25 – August 11)

After the group stage, set to end on July 23, the top two teams from each group, and the four best third place teams will be seeded into a knockout tournament. There will only be one match in knockout play, with a tie game going directly into penalty kicks.

  • Round of 16 – July 25-28
  • Quarterfinals – July 30-August 1
  • Semifinals – August 5-6
  • Final – August 11

All times are TBA.

What to Play for

MLS announced after the new CBA deal was reached, that there is a $1.1 million prize pool. The tournament will allow the players to earn bonuses. It’s been rumored that there is also a trophy that will be lifted on August 11, but there’s one prize that makes this tournament serious.

Other than the fact that the three group stage matches will count towards the regular season, teams will be playing hard all tournament because of a 2021 CONCACAF Champions League spot that will be granted to the winner. Regardless if it’s an American or Canadian club, this one time berth into the CCL will be replacing the spot that is usually awarded to the top team in the conference that doesn’t have the winners of the Supporters Shield.

Inter Miami CF was cleared to return to full team training earlier this week. Fans will hope it’s enough time to put the club ahead of the rest, turn around the 2020 season, and qualify for the CCL in its inaugural year.

The league also announced that the 2020 regular season will take place shortly following the finale of the “MLS is Back Tournament.”

 

 

Inter Miami returning to training in Fort Lauderdale

The return of Inter Miami CF is closer than ever as the club announced this afternoon that they have received approval from Major League Soccer to begin full team training as early as this week.

 

The MLS debutants played only two matches to kick off their inaugural campaign and were on the heels of making their much-anticipated home debut versus the Los Angeles Galaxy prior to MLS, and the rest of the sports world shut down due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

MLS lifted the team training moratorium on June 4 and Inter Miami was one of the first clubs to release their plans to return to training with a comprehensive explanation of procedures which highlighted all of the main points in helping both stop contamination and keeping athletes and staff members safe as they returned to training.

 

Before sending their plans to MLS, Inter Miami CF had to have its plans approved by the Club’s medical staff and local infectious disease experts.

 

According to MLS, “A strict schedule of COVID-19 testing will also be required, and full team training is mandatory after previously being in the phase for voluntary small group training.”

 

On May 6, players began to slowly return as part of the voluntary individual training sessions, but now the club has the green light to return to full team training at Inter Miami CF Training Center.

 

Inter Miami CF will now begin preparations for their return to the pitch as MLS has also agreed on a summer return in late-June with a Tournament in Orlando with three group games and a 16-team knockout round.

 

Five names who could land with Inter Miami

It’s fair to say that things haven’t quite gone to plan for David Beckham and co since Inter Miami made their first strides into the MLS. It’s currently two defeats from as many games with just one goal to their name and, on top of that, the expected star quality is yet to be truly sprinkled on the squad.

 

We’re sure the results will turnaround soon enough for Diego Alonso’s men but getting a noteworthy signing in might take a little longer. Here we look at five names who might be that arrival that Inter needs to surprise in the MLS table.

Number 5. Jurgen Damm​

Okay, so Damm is hardly the name would draw in viewers from Europe, but he’s well known this side of the pond for his impact with Tigres in Liga MX. He has a dozen Mexico caps to his name and can operate on either flank where he is a constant threat to his opponents thanks to his pace, which was once clocked at a rapid 35km per hour – enough to earn him the title as the world’s second fastest player.

 

He’s out of contract and only 27 so still has plenty to offer. It would still be a relatively decent statement signing given that several MLS clubs along with European sides Roma and Besiktas have had links made. The odds of this happening still remain long though with Beckham likely keen on a more global name. ​

Number 4. Daniel Sturridge​

Not that Beckham really needs much help to pitch Inter Miami as an attractive proposition but the fact that Sturridge grew up watching his compatriot on television is bound to give Miami an edge as DC United also line up talks with the former England international.

 

Despite a fine scoring record throughout his career, he now finds his livelihood in soccer hanging by a thread after betting breaches have seen him suspended from the game.

 

Injury problems have undoubtedly played their part in seeing him go from Premier League sharpshooter to an unattached rule breaker but at 30-years-old he’s hardly over the hill. A fit and focussed Sturridge would score goals for fun in the MLS.​ However, if Daniel does turn up in the US, at least he might want to shift his focus to BetAmerica.com baseball online betting to avoid being banned from soccer practice again.

Number 3. Edinson Cavani​

Now here is a name that would prick up the ears of global soccer fans. Cavani is leaving Ligue 1 giants PSG this summer with his contract up and he’s keen to find regular game time after only featuring in 600 minutes of league action this season. His output throughout his career has been nothing short of phenomenal with his spell at Napoli his most impressive in terms of goals to game ratio with a goal every 1.3 matches. Mind you, 200 in 301 in France isn’t half bad either! Some will point to his 33 years but, despite a few niggles in the 2019/20 campaign, Cavani is far from past it with several major European clubs – including Inter Milan – chasing him.

 

Beckham might need to pull out all the stops to convince Cavani to turn his back on Europe but the fact he’d be some five hours closer to his homeland of Uruguay – and a handsome pay packet – might be a good starting point.​

 

Number 2. Rogelio Funes Mori

On the surface of it, you might be forgiven for thinking that the concerns over whether or not Damm’s profile would be enough to tempt Beckham to bring a relative unknown (to European fans) in apply to Funes Mori too. Scratch a little deeper though and you’ll quickly see why he’d be willing to sacrifice a worldwide profile for one and, potentially, not the other.

 

Mori has been in Mexico, where he plays for Monterrey, since 2015 and has proven himself to be a deadly center forward. In 200 games he’s knocked in 101 goals and provided a further 27 assists for team. Monterrey will be desperate to keep him but a move for Mori might prove somewhat easier than luring someone of Cavani’s ilk. ​

Number 1. James Rodriguez​

This man would be an enormous coup for Inter Miami. Not only is James a talented ball player but he’s also in the prime years of his career at 28. James started out in his native Colombia, for whom he’s shined at international level, but quickly moved to Argentinian outfit Banfield. From there he’s gone to FC Porto – where he won the Europa League – Monaco, Real Madrid, a loan to Bayern Munich and back to Madrid for combined fees of $150m.

 

He’s now back with Real Madrid but establishing himself in their side looks hugely unlikely given he’s only managed 124 appearances since signing in 2014. Given that an in-form James will be one from the very top drawer, Miami will face serious competition from Europe with Real’s rivals Atletico and English trio Everton, Newcastle and – less realistically – Manchester United all mentioned as possible destinations.

 

Even so, if Beckham can pull out all the stops then James could dominate the MLS and make Miami a genuine force to be reckoned with.​

There you have it, five names who could be pulling on the Inter Miami strip in the coming months. Who would you most like to see come to Florida? ​

 

MLS to Restart after New CBA Reached

After reaching a deal on a new CBA in February, MLS and the MLSPA due to the global pandemic were forced to make revisions as circumstances changed drastically. An original deadline to reach the agreement was mid-day Tuesday, but luckily was postponed another 24 hours. With a lockout looming, MLS players and owners were forced to reach a deal that included the reduction of player income, and a plan to restart the season.

Money Cuts

Negotiations between the Player’s Association and owners about salaries started and ended in drastically different places. It has been reported that owners were originally looking to have player salaries cut by 50%. It was later talked down to 8.75%, then an agreed 7.5%, but continued to drop. Sources state that the new deal reached yesterday morning have only reduced player salaries by 5%.

Players also took a reduction on their cut of the new broadcast deal set to begin in 2023. Originally, players were set to take 25% in 2023, but instead that percentage will be cut in half. However, in 2024 and 2025, the revenue share will return back from the 12.5% to 25%. Team and bonus funds have also been reduced to a $5 million pool. $1 million of those funds will be allocated towards the upcoming Orlando Tournament as prize winnings.

The Disney Cup

Returning to play was extremely important in this new deal. A lockout during a time like this would be devastating for the league financially. With the plan to start a summer tournament in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, a product will be put back on the pitch, something MLS fans haven’t witnessed since March 12th.

The plan is to have teams arrive in Orlando in about three weeks, and begin play at the beginning of July. It is reported that each team will play a minimum of three games. Each side will have the results of these three games counted towards their 2020 regular season standings.

In what seems to be a World Cup style format, the first three games will determine what 16 teams will move on to a knockout tournament. One team will host a new trophy, and might even take the entire $1 million prize pool. It is unclear how the money will be dispersed.

What Does this Mean for Inter Miami?

With all of this time off players were given a rest period like no other. Inter Miami are set to benefit from this time off with Julian Carranza returning from injury. The club had posted pictures of him back in training on their social media accounts. The team’s goal scoring in the first two games was almost non-existent (only recording one goal), and Carranza could come into Orlando looking to fix that.

Inter Miami being a new team in the league were destined to face adversity in the beginning stages of their inaugural season. Recording zero points in two games is never ideal. But, with every MLS team essentially starting from square one, being an expansion team in a circumstance like this gives a level playing field. The first three games in Orlando will be extremely important so look for Inter Miami to capitalize and boost their 2020 record.

Voices

Coronavirus and Sports: Becoming Numb

I was going to write about Inter Miami, I really was. Maybe it would have been an upbeat preview about the “MLS Is Back” schedule reveal (Breakfast with Inter Miami vs. Chicago Fire at 9 a.m. on July 14, can you dig it?) or a more serious, ominous look at the league and its protocols as we are only 2 weeks away from the start of the first tournament in the United States after the pandemic.

But then I thought “AFTER the pandemic? We are barely during the pandemic, much less past it” and I discovered I’m sort of…detached? Nah, that’s not the word. I still follow the American sports landscape and want sports to be back. Shocked? That’s not it either, nothing that has happened the past three months has surprised me even a little, and that’s saying something. Numb? Yes, that’s it. I’m numb to the developments in the sports world nowadays, and I’m pretty sure other fans, writers and even players feel similarly.

I’m numb because I saw the news about 16 NBA players (the equivalent of an entire team’s roster, plus one) testing positive for COVID-19 and my reaction isn’t “Oh my, what if they backtrack and the season is cancelled?” It’s more like “I’m fine with whatever happens, I’m just waiting to see everyone freak out when a true superstar tests positive and [insert team here] has to play an entire series without him.”

I’m numb because “43 Division I teams have been eliminated in the last 12 weeks, and more than 130 programs have been cut across all NCAA levels”, and those kids weren’t earning millions of dollars, even as some of their coaches were and certainly their athletic departments are.

LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION

New Zealand is past the pandemic with tens of thousands gathering with joy to watch a rugby match most of them probably don’t remember the final score of. Europe is crowning champions as its cases are mostly going down (hello, Sweden, we see you) and fans celebrate the end of droughts in Liverpool and Naples as the ball keeps rolling with no apparent setbacks week after week.

Liverpool fans celebrate outside Anfield.

Even South America has soccer, but that’s because they don’t really give a shit in Brazil and they are bent on living like there is literally no tomorrow and they had the most new daily cases in the world on Thursday, June 25. Seems healthy.

Meanwhile, the United States of America is looking at itself in the mirror and wonders how it all went so wrong, so quickly after three months of sacrifices that were supposed to pave the way for sports to come back swiftly and smoothly.

We are Rachel and the Coronavirus is Ross asking: “OVER you? When were you UNDER me?” while we beat ourselves up wondering what went wrong and the President compares a deadly virus to the sniffles.

I’m numb because baseball is about to be back for a lightning round of games that promise to be exciting. Why am I not excited? I should be, with every game being three times as important and the potential of a repeat of that frantic 2011 finish of the regular season that gave every baseball fan a collective heart attack.

My heart rate is nowhere near skyrocketing, though. Some experts don’t even think the season will be able to finish.

I should be pumped to witness the start of the Tua era in Miami, but then I see that the Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and the Steelers was cancelled and I’m bracing for what August and September might bring.

I’m even numb to the added crowd noise and the “virtual fans” we see at European soccer games. It’s background noise.

Maybe you read this and thought I spent 700 words being dramatic, and that’s ok. Maybe you will feel numb or jaded until 2021, and that’s ok too. Maybe this is just temporary, and everything feels a little alien after 100+ days of uncertainty and I will be all pumped up again in a couple of weeks when sports feel “real” again.

I will be waiting for that moment to come.