Inter Miami Impresses but Leaves Crucial Two Points in Philly

Inter Miami Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA – Inter Miami CF brought home a golden point from Subaru Park after their match against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union ended in a 0-0 draw. The Herons made three adjustments in the starting lineup from their prior match against DC United. Victor Ulloa gave DeAndre Yedlin a rest at right-back, while Ryan Sailor got his second MLS start at center back, and Indiana Vassilev got the nod on the wing for Miami.

A balanced 1st half had the squads go back and forth with possession and opportunities on goal. 20’ Bryce Duke intercepted an errant pass and dashed towards the Union goal, Duke passed the ball off to Leo Campana, who cut in and blasted a left-footed cannon off the goalpost. At 25’ Philly defender, Jakob Glesnes smashed a free-kick off the upper right corner of Callender’s goal. The half ends with neither team able to get on the scoreboard.

The 2nd half continued with parity on the pitch. The squads created chances but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. 52’ Bryce Duke received a pass in the box from Robert Taylor and turned on a dime to boot a left-footed shot that went over the Union goal. Just a couple of minutes later, Duke received a slashing pass from Indiana Vassilev which led him into the box, and had his attempt blocked by goalie Andre Blake who came out and closed the angle on Bryce. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

Postgame Press Conference

Coach Neville began his press conference by stating that the sentiment around the team was one of having unfinished business.

“I suppose when you come to a team like Philadelphia and you get a point then you should be happy, but I feel, and the team feels as if we probably dropped some points because we felt as if we controlled the game … I think the team is getting real confidence, I think the team is getting real belief, I think we can see a clear identity in the way that we want to play.”

The Union sat atop the Eastern Conference, and Miami essentially went toe to toe with them in Philadelphia. It wasn’t an outstanding match by either team, but it is significant in the progress the Herons are making in their quest to be a contending team.

I asked Phil his opinion on Gonzalo and Emerson coming in as subs and how he felt they performed. The coach almost caught me by surprise, turning around and asking my views. After hearing my response, he had the following comments.

“I put Gonzalo on to play more minutes because we need him fit … he’s now beginning to get back in sharpness.”

I have stated before that if this team is going to contend for anything, Gonzalo will play a big part. Higuain’s experience and quality are necessary on a team with many young players with prominent roles. The Philadelphia game displayed a fitter, more active Higuain for Miami. This can only be a plus for the team.

I asked goalkeeper Drake Callender about the effects of a constantly rotating backline on communication as a unit.

“Being a goalkeeper you really serve as like the anchor, communication is one of the biggest aspects of being in this position… anyway I can help my team because I can see the field, I’m going to do my best to communicate.”

Callender also went on to mention that no matter who is playing along the backline the team sticks to the game plan and that as defenders the players must have grit. Drake is a very talented goalie who is making the case to be the starting goalie now and for the foreseeable future. His talents merit US National Team notice in my opinion. The Herons have a foundational piece for this team in Drake Callender.

Final Thoughts

Inter Miami CF currently has a 3-6-3 record and is 12th out of 14 teams in the Eastern Conference standings. That is not good enough. Near the halfway point of the 34-game season, the expectations are for this team to be in playoff contention. The squad faces tough competition in its next five MLS games. The next two matches are at home against New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers. The Herons then travel to face Atlanta United, return home for a tilt against Minnesota United, and finally fly out to face FC Dallas. The grit, spirit, and identity of this team will be tested during this stretch. 

Phil put all his chips on the table against Philadelphia Union when he made his substitutions to try and win the game. I applaud the coach for not going conservative but instead seeking victory on the road. It shows his confidence and growing trust in his players.

Damion Lowe and Gregore have elevated their play in the last two games. Each player is a leader in their position, and the best way to lead a team is by example on the pitch. 

Bryce Duke continues to get quality minutes for the team, and the young midfielder is not disappointing. Gregore, Mota, and Duke continue to solidify themselves as the starters in the middle for the Herons. 

Gonzalo Higuain looked the fittest and mobile that he has looked all season in his minutes against Philadelphia. His role as a super-sub suits him and the team best. Higuain’s quality and touch on the ball are his best attributes right now for the Herons. Gonzalo cannot be expected to make long runs for an extended period of time anymore, but he can be expected to use his great experience and skills to help this team win games.  

Phil Neville is growing more and more comfortable as coach of the Herons and has made some tough decisions. He benched Higuain and rightfully placed Campana at striker early in the season. The midfield seems set with Gregore, Mota, and Duke. Drake Callender looks to have taken over the starting goalkeeper role. Indiana Vassilev was brought in to provide depth and competition on the wings and the midfield. The coach has put in work to try and steer the team in the right direction. The Herons find themselves only 3 points away from the seventh place in the Eastern Conference, and playoff contention. I would venture to say that despite all the negatives so far this season, the team is trending in the right direction. It’s going to be an uphill climb but the team has a chance to make the playoffs.

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