DRV PNK Stadium- Inter Miami was eliminated from playoff contention with a 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on the same night Lionel Messi returned from injury as a second-half substitute. The Herons played a brilliant first half but could not penetrate the Cincy net with several chances banging off the posts. Álvaro Barreal scored the game’s only goal off a rebound in the 78th minute to give Cincinnati the win.
There was great anticipation about Lionel Messi’s return from injury before the FC Cincinnati match because he had not played since September 20 against Toronto FC. During the week Messi was seen practicing normally with his teammates giving the fans hope he would finally get back on the pitch for Miami.
Tata Martino had Inter Miami come out in a 5-3-2 formation with Noah Allen and DeAndre Yedlin as wingbacks and Kamal Miller, Sergeii Kryvstov, and Tomás Avilés as the three center-backs. The midfield trio consisted of Sergio Busquets flanked by Benjamin Cremaschi and David Ruiz. Josef Martinez and Facundo Farías commanded the attack for Miami.
— Xavier Guerrero (@XGLAVOZ) October 7, 2023
Inter Miami played one of its best first halves of the season against Cincy, controlling possession and creating several clear scoring chances. Unfortunately for the Herons, several of their goal attempts hit the post, starting with Tomás Avilés in the 9th minute.
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) October 7, 2023
Josef Martinez would have a left-footed screamer bang off the far post in the 22nd minute after a subtle pass from David Ruiz. It would be that kind of night for Miami, close but no cigar.
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) October 8, 2023
A brilliant half for Miami would have nothing to show for it other than meaningless statistics, when in reality the only statistic that matters is goals scored. The half would end 0-0.
Cincy End Miami’s Playoff Hopes
The second half would be Cincinnati’s half, with the visitors putting Miami on their heels. Cincy missed point-blank opportunities in front of Miami’s net and also saw Drake Callender make some spectacular saves. The visitors would score the game’s lone goal when Álvaro Barreal slammed the ball past Callender after the Miami goalie blocked a shot and the rebound ended at Barreal’s feet.
ÁLVARO BALL-REAL 💥 pic.twitter.com/L7FSrbHNNq
— S – FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) October 8, 2023
In a match where both teams created multiple quality chances to score, one goal off a rebound was the difference in the game. Cincy won the match and ended Miami’s hopes of making the playoffs. Now the games are played for pride and for some a possible spot on next season’s roster.
After the match, Tata briefly talked about what his expectations were when he first took over the team,
The season, I thought it was going to be completely different from what happened, My expectations were to create the group, train them in our style of soccer, and not go too deep in Leagues Cup, and compete very well…
The Leagues Cup 2023 Championship was a welcomed surprise this season for Miami, and I’m not sure if that is what costs Miami in their chase for a playoff spot. Miami reaching the playoffs was farfetched when Martino took over as coach. The inordinate amount of games played necessitated a refreshing of the gameday rosters, with Tata refusing to give several players any meaningful minutes. If some players were overworked, it can be directly attributed to Martino. A coach usually has his core group and when he sits other players even when a rest is needed it is probably because he doesn’t trust those players. I’m expecting major changes next season on the Miami roster.
Inter Miami’s hopes for a playoff spot were extinguished by the losses to Chicago Fire and FC Cincinnati at a crucial moment in the season. Against Chicago, Miami looked lifeless and without energy, but against Cincinnati Inter was a different team that just could not score. A valiant effort nonetheless from the Herons to keep the season interesting until the end.
I expect Tata Martino to clean house next season and for Inter Miami to have a dramatically different roster. Chris Henderson will have lots of work in the offseason building a championship roster for Miami. The sanctions will be over and Inter Miami will now be able to compete on an equal footing.