Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Inter Miami CF is in the midst of a playoff race with four games to go in a roller coaster of a campaign. Let’s take a look back at how it began and how it is going leading into this Sunday’s huge game against D.C. United on the road.
The Herons began training with fourteen new players on the roster. The most noticeable among them were DeAndre Yedlin, Jean Mota, Leonardo Campana, and Damion Lowe. Inter Miami was able to win the “Breeze Airways Carolina Challenge Cup” defeating Charlotte FC 2-1.
Coach Neville said that the team had a,” really good pre-season.”
Awful Start to the Season
Nine starters made their debut for the Herons against the Chicago Fire in a 0-0 draw at home. Clement Diop was selected Man of the Match.
Coach Neville after the game said,” These are the players I have chosen to do what I want them to do, and I have to live and die by that.”
Miami gets clobbered 5-1 by Austin FC on the road. Leonardo Campana scores his first goal of the season off a Gonzalo Higuain assist.
Neville stated, “For me the disappointment today was that we didn’t stick to what we had been working on all week, what we have been working on all preseason about the shape, discipline, and compactness of the team.”
IMCF lose at home 2-0 to LAFC. The Herons began the game fast and furious, but a Brek Shea red card killed the momentum. Higuain was replaced by Lassiter during the game, and Neville said, “We had to bring Gonzalo off because we needed more energy on the pitch.”
I wrote that “Higuain is still the one that can put the ball in the back of the net. Perhaps a move back as the lone center forward with speedy wingers and a true creator feeding him the ball can spark the Argentine.”
The Slump Busters
Miami loses 3-1 on the road against FC Cincinnati. Gonzalo Higuain scored a penalty kick but looked out of rhythm during the match. It was Cincy’s first win after fourteen consecutive losses dating back to the previous season.
Inter Miami lose at home 3-1 to a Houston Dynamo squad that had not won in their previous 26 road matches.
After the match, Robbie Robinson said,” I think we can turn this around.” I advocated for the benching of Higuain and Gregore to see if that would spark the team.
Higuain is injured & the turnaround begins
Leonardo Campana nets the team’s first ever hat-trick in a 3-2 home win against New England Revolution. Campana started the game in place of an injured Gonzalo Higuain. Bryce Duke made his first appearance of the season with an assist on the third goal for Campana.
After the match, I wrote this about Gonzalo, “His experience and quality are valuable right now. If this squad is to do anything during the current campaign, Gonzalo will be a part of it.”
In the first-ever meeting between Inter Miami CF and Seattle Sounders, Miami came away with the 1-0 win on the road. Robbie Robinson scored off a DeAndre Yedlin cross. Gonzalo Higuain missed his second game due to a knee injury.
Inter Miami wins its third straight MLS game, defeating Atlanta United 2-1 at home with goals from Leonardo Campana and Bryce Duke. The crowd booed Gonzalo Higuain as he came on for Campana at the 82′ minute of the match. Leonardo gestured to the crowd to refrain from booing.
Coach Neville after the game, “We have key qualities that make successful teams successful, and that’s that indomitable spirit, indomitable togetherness… and fight.”
I wrote after the game about Higuain, “Now the best way Higuain can redeem himself is by performing like a star on the pitch for this team, like he is paid to do. Then, the boos will turn to cheers.”
Losses on the road
Miami loses to New England Revolution 2-0 on the road. Bryce Duke gets his first start. Leonardo Campana and Aime Mabika come off early in the first half, injured. Damion Lowe and Jairo Quinteros are sent off after receiving two yellow card bookings.
I wrote after the match, “The next DP signing could be a creative playmaker that adds some spice and quality to the midfield position that is lacking a difference-maker.”
In the first-ever regular-season meeting with Charlotte FC, Miami goes down 1-0 on the road. Drake Callender started in goal, and Ryan Sailor debuted for the Herons.
After the game, Phil Neville stated, ” I thought we were the better team.”
Another positive streak
Miami tied with D.C. United 2-2 at home after leading 2-0. Damion Lowe scored his first MLS goal on a header. Bryce Duke and Robert Taylor combined nicely in the midfield, with Duke looking like the best player in the game.
Neville, “We feel as if we are better than the position we are in.”
Inter Miami gets a tie 0-0 against Philadelphia Union on the road. Drake Callender and Damion Lowe make the MLS Team of the Week.
I wrote, “The Philadelphia game displayed a more fit, more active Higuain for Miami, this can only be a plus for the team.”
I also went out on a limb, ” It’s going to be an uphill climb, but the team has a chance to make the playoffs.”
The Herons defeated NY Red Bulls 2-0 at home in one of the team’s better games of the season. Ariel Lassiter and Robert Taylor scored, with Drake Callender netting his second consecutive clean sheet in goal.
Phil said, “There’s a great spirit and togetherness.”
Inter Miami CF wins 2-1 at home against Portland Timbers. Leonardo Campana and Robert Taylor scored. Bryce Duke conducted the midfield masterfully while Miami played lovely futból.
Phil Neville, ” We can compete with anyone.”
Rough return from the international break
After returning from the international break, Miami loses 2-0 to Atlanta United on the road. Jean Mota is tossed from the game at the 28′ minute.
Neville, “I felt we looked a little bit rusty.”
A win, a draw & two tight loses
Indiana Vassilev scores two goals as a substitute in the 86′ and 89′ minutes for the Herons. He led a 2-1 come-from-behind win at home against Minnesota United. Vassilev becomes the first player in MLS history to enter a game after the 80th minute and score the tying, and game-winning goals.
Neville, “This is the new Inter Miami.”
Leonardo Campana with a header at the 88′ minute gave Miami the draw away against FC Dallas, 1-1.
I wrote, “Higuain looks to be in better shape, and also seemed to be less critical of teammates on the pitch.”
Damion Lowe’s own goal in extra time led to Miami’s demise in Orlando 1-0. The Herons played a strong game but could not get on the board.
IMCF lose at home 2-1 to the Philadelphia Union. Emerson Rodriguez gets his first start, and Gonzalo Higuain scored a beauty from outside. Alejandro Pozuelo is presented to the home crowd after being acquired from Toronto FC.
Pozuelo debuts & the Herons come back for the win
In Alejandro Pozuelo’s debut, Inter Miami comes back from an 0-2 deficit against Charlotte FC to win 3-2 at home. Robert Taylor, Gonzalo Higuain, and Emerson Rodriguez scored for Miami. It was the first time in team history that they come back and win after going down two goals. Emerson Rodriguez scored his first career MLS goal.
Loss in NY & a dramatic tie at home
Miami takes the 2-0 loss in NY against NYCFC. Pozuelo had a discrete game, and Higuain was adequate.
Neville, “I thought we competed in the game.”
Miami ties with FC Cincinnati 4-4 at home. Gonzalo Higuain has a first-half hat-trick. Cincy takes the lead late in the game, but Chris Mcvey ties it for the Herons with a blast from outside the box at the 7′ minute of stoppage time. Electric match at DRV PNK Stadium with a wave of emotions from start to finish.
Points on the road & big wins at home
Inter Miami gets a huge win on the road 1-0 against the San Jose Earthquakes. Jean Mota bombs one from outside for the goal. Leonardo Campana comes off injured at the 22′ minute, and Gonzalo Higuain also comes off injured at the 72′ minute.
Neville, ” A good three points.”
The Herons tie 2-2 on the road against a tough CF Montreal squad. Gonzalo Higuain and Emerson Rodriguez score. Bryce Duke and Alejandro Pozuelo combined in the midfield, with Duke winning Man of the Match honors.
Neville, “The players, I thought, performed a miracle tonight. In terms of their effort, their spirit, their togetherness.”
Alejandro Pozuelo scores a brace to lead Miami to a 3-2 come-from-behind win against NYCFC at home. Ariel Lassiter scored the other goal for the Herons. The win puts Inter Miami above the playoff race line.
Neville on Alejandro Pozuelo, ” He’s a game changer for us who makes plays, who creates things, who was the best player on the pitch I thought.”
Alejandro Pozuelo had an average game against his former team, but Inter Miami defeats Toronto FC 2-1 at home led by Jean Mota and Ariel Lassiter’s goals. The Herons climb to fifth in the playoff race standings.
Neville, ” We’ve got to play better to get where we want to get to. It’s non-negotiable.”
Another losing streak
Miami loses on the road in New York against the NY Red Bulls, 3-1. Gonzalo Higuain scores a blazing free kick for the Herons. Alejandro Pozuelo receives a red card at the 29′ minute for a dangerous high challenge that saw his cleat hit a Red Bulls player in the chest.
Neville, “Really disappointed, angry, frustrated.”
Miami loses 1-0 on the road against the Columbus Crew. It is the team’s second straight loss on the road. Nick Marsman got the start in goal, his first since April 30th against the New England Revolution. Inter Miami falls to ninth in the playoff race standings. Alejandro Pozuelo missed the match because of a red card suspension, and Gonzalo Higuain played hurt after being doubtful for the match.
Neville, “I said at halftime to the coaches that it was always going to be a mistake, a lack of concentration that cost either team the result.”
The Herons lose their third consecutive game on the road, this time to the Chicago Fire, 3-1. The team looks lifeless and offers little fight during the match. Perhaps the team’s worst performance of the season at a most inopportune time.
In a must-win game against the Columbus Crew, Gonzalo Higuain scores a brace to power the Herons past the Crew 2-1 at DRV PNK Stadium. The match was delayed for over two and a half hours. Alejandro Pozuelo and Gonzalo Higuain provide clutch performances for Miami. Phil talks about Gonzalo after the match, “At the moment we have a goal scorer that’s winning us games.”
Gonzalo Higuaín letting me know that he has dealt with pressure since the start of his career, and that it’s second nature to him..he & Pozuelo are ready to lead the team on this last stretch of crucial games..#InterMiamiCF pic.twitter.com/74AftKUBI5
— Xavier Guerrero (@XGLAVOZ) September 14, 2022
Inter Miami CF sits eighth in the playoff race standings with an 11-13-6 record and 39 points, only two points behind seventh-place Columbus Crew with 41 points.
The remaining four games for Miami are evenly divided between home and away games. The Herons have been strong at home this season, and have two tough opponents coming up at DRV PNK Stadium in Orlando City and CF Montreal. The home crowd must be raucous and make the atmosphere hyped for Inter Miami CF to have a chance in this playoff race.
D.C. United and Toronto FC are the other remaining road games for Inter Miami. The Herons have to get points from D.C. United, which is currently the worst team in the Eastern Conference. If Miami cannot get crucial points from the last-place team, then they probably don’t need to be in the playoffs. A draw in Toronto would be ok with me, a victory would be fabulous.
I’ve been a playoff believer for this team before it even seemed possible, and I’m not going to stop believing now. I’m tripling down on Inter Miami CF succeeding in their playoff race, and once in, anything can happen. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride and the best part is coming up.