Road Woes Continue for Inter Miami CF in 1-0 Loss to Charlotte FC


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Inter Miami CF was defeated by Charlotte FC 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in the first-ever matchup between the teams.  The loss was Miami’s second in a row, as the expansion team outplayed the Herons.

Inter Miami CF put out an interesting lineup on Saturday against Charlotte, with some changes due to injuries or suspensions. Drake Callender was the starting goalkeeper in place of the injured Nick Marsman, while Ryan Sailor made his first-team debut at center back alongside Chris Mcvey. Aimé Mabika missed the game with a hamstring injury, and Damion Lowe was out due to a suspension. Kieran Gibbs got the nod at left-back, and Indiana Vassilev started surprisingly on the right-wing.

The slew of changes in the starting eleven for Miami did little to improve the Herons inability to have ball possession and control the flow of the game. In the first half, Charlotte looked like the better side and not an expansion team. The game was back and forth with the squad from the Queen City controlling most of the half up until the last fifteen minutes. Miami at the 33’ had a nice give and go combination in the box that ended with Gibbs’ shot blocked by the Charlotte goalie Khalina.

At the 42’ Campana, Vassilev, and Duke quickly touched the ball amongst each other leading to a Campana pass into the box for Vassilev with Khalina closing the angle and blocking the shot. The half came to an end with Callender and Sailor having strong showings for Miami, with the young players shining for an otherwise lackluster team.

The second half offered much of the same, a back and forth game with Charlotte dictating the flow while Miami counterattacked. At the 52’ Duke served a pass inside to Gibbs who shot on goal and was blocked by Khalina. It looked like Gibbs could have crossed the ball to an open Campana to his right and given the striker a great opportunity. Ariel Lassiter came on for Vassilev in the 60’. Vassilev had a decent game, making many runs into space and also trying to initiate combinations with teammates. Charlotte FC got on the board at 67’ with a quick counterattack, a cross by Yordi Reyna to Andre Shinyashiki was blasted across the goal into the side of Miami’s net. A wonderful finish by Shinyashiki, showed the Herons are vulnerable to the counterattacks. Gibbs was trailing the play and could not catch up to Shinyashiki, he could only watch helplessly as the ball went into Callender’s goal.

Joevin Jones came in for Gibbs at 68’, while Emerson Rodriguez and Victor Ulloa entered the match at 83’ for Robbie Robinson and Jean Mota respectively. A possible penalty on Rodriguez in the Charlotte box was not called by the referee.  The match ended in a disappointing 0-1 loss for the Herons.

Press Conference

Coach Neville looked battered as he began his news conference, 

“Obviously bitterly disappointed, we knew it was going to be a tough game because of the momentum they got at home.”

IMCF has lost any momentum it had built up this season with its previous win streak. The loss to Charlotte began another losing streak, and let’s hope it’s not a long one. Despite the loss, the coach felt as though his team played well on Saturday.

The Herons had some moments in the game where it seemed like the attacking players on the pitch were beginning to click with each other. There were sequences of quick touches and good off-the-ball movements that showed an understanding between the players. Unfortunately, it was not often enough and it did not lead to any goals being scored. Neville insisted that Miami was the better team on Saturday,

“I thought we were the better team”.

Watching the match, I honestly could not tell you that Miami was the better team. If anything, I was impressed with the play of the expansion Charlotte squad. At this point into the season, the Herons should be better than what they are showing on the pitch. 

Center back Ryan Sailor, fresh off his debut with Miami, took questions from reporters. Sailor said he was,

“Proud of how I did, proud of how the team fought.”

Ryan should be very proud, he had an outstanding debut for the Herons displaying many promising characteristics. The moment was not too big for Sailor, he was thrust into action in a tough venue and showed his mettle. The kid is solid, makes good tackles, and provides a strong presence in the middle of the defense. Another young prospect that shows promise for Miami. The team has a lot of young talent but needs to win right now. Ryan showed his youthful exuberance when he mentioned that at warmups he giddy with emotion.

It’s great to have players express their emotions candidly, especially when a young player is starting what appears to be a promising career.

Final Thought

Indiana Vassilev is a good player, but having him start immediately ahead of Ariel Lassiter was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. I thought Ariel was playing some good fútbol for the team and had earned his starting spot. Coach Neville mentioned post-game that with Indiana he was trying to play him closer to the middle and not as far out wide. Phil wanted to manage the midfield in the game, the adjustment improved the team’s possession gradually with Charlotte having 53.1% to Miami’s 46.9%. Moving forward, I want to see how Lassiter handles the situation and if Indiana really creates a spark for the team. It seems like many changes have been attempted throughout the campaign with little effect on the team’s overall performance. I still insist that a creative playmaker is a priority for this team. 

Drake Callender and Ryan Sailor are future stars for Miami. Callender is rock solid in goal, and barely ever gives up any rebounds. Sailor debuted in a grand fashion, making strong tackles and fitting in nicely with the team. The young players are showing that they can get playing time regardless of who’s available for Phil. 

The left-back position is still open for the taking in my estimation. Neither Gibbs nor Jones showed me anything that staked a claim to the starting spot. I know that both are proven veterans, but Noah Allen at 18 years old doesn’t seem any less than them. Allen has a great upside and can only improve with playing time. Regardless, Phil is in a bind because he needs to consolidate the left-back position and no one has owned it. 

At one point in the game, I tweeted out that I could not differentiate which squad was the expansion team. Charlotte has identified their style of play and looks more cohesive than Miami which is in its third season. Whether it’s the players or the coach, this is a major issue. In theory, the Herons like to counterattack, but in practice, they are very vulnerable to the counter. A team that sits back and waits cannot then be so open to the opponent’s counters. Throughout the season this has continued to be a problem.

Tuesday night the Herons will play the South Georgia Tormenta FC at DRV Pink Stadium in a must-win game. A loss to a non-MLS team would be disastrous for Neville. We are almost to the midpoint of the season, and many questions still remain with this team. Time is running out on Neville to get this team going.

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