Analyzing Inter Miami: Defensive disorganization, Gonzalo Higuain's wasteful finishing, and more
Three takeaways from Inter Miami's decisive 3-1 home loss to New York City FC
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — If there was one way to perfectly sum up how Inter Miami’s season has gone, it was likely the finish to this past weekend’s match.
Inter Miami entered the final minutes of its last home game of the 2021 season when the boastful chants of “Ole” rang out at Drv Pnk Stadium as passes were strung together in succession around the field. The problem was that it was not the South Florida side’s supporters who were doing the gloating but rather New York City FC fans, who were watching their team move one step closer to the playoffs with a 3-1 win that also eliminated the Herons from postseason contention.
As ugly as that scene might be from an Inter Miami point of view — and it followed a somewhat related diss from former Inter Miami co-owner and now NYCFC business associate Marcelo Claure — it depicted just how poor the team was in the second half of that defeat. After putting together an overall okay opening stanza in which the home side should have either been in the lead or level at a minimum, Inter Miami came undone after the break. Whatever control the team had of the run of play was gone, and so too was the organization that had been demonstrated prior to halftime.
Just look at NYCFC’s second and third goals.
Inter Miami gets cuts open far too easily on the go-ahead goal, with Blaise Matuidi failing to track his runner while the defensive line is far too stretched and uneven. Left back Brek Shea was not in line with the other members of the back four, causing a domino effect that saw left centerback Christian Makoun pulled far out of position and acres of space left between he and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez for NYCFC to exploit.
If the second goal was a bad breakdown, the third is nearly unsightly. NYCFC does a good job moving the ball around quickly to spring an attack, but the manner in which three Inter Miami defenders of what was then a back five all haphazardly pressed one player near an advanced part of the left flank before failing to track back into position with urgency is concerning.
Shea, Makoun, and Nicolas Figal were guilty parties there, leaving swaths of land to attack on the left side and Inter Miami with a numerical disadvantage of 5-on-3 on the play.
“Ultimately, we lose discipline, we lose concentration, we are too emotional,” said Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville. “How do we change that? Personnel, personnel, or you change tactics, which we have tried. But ultimately personnel is the one that you have to change to get better results.”
It has become crystal clear over the past month that Inter Miami plans to undergo some significant roster changes this offseason ahead of the 2022 campaign. Neville even used the term “rebuild” in one press conference, so expect a significant part of the squad to be blown up because clearly games like this past Saturday’s have been too common for an organization that is as ambitious as this one.
Gonzalo Higuain’s wasteful finishing continues
As mentioned previously, Inter Miami should have gone ahead in the first half. The team had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Matuidi played a line-breaking pass to Gonzalo Higuain, who was left in on goal from about 12 yards out but failed to beat NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson with a shot that lacked the requisite power or precision.
While it is true that a player cannot and will not score every single chance they get, Higuain has shown a penchant as of late for being wasteful with his finishing. He did not convert a very good look in last Wednesday’s 2-1 road loss to Atlanta United — a chance that would have given Inter Miami a 2-0 lead in that game — and also failed to capitalize on a couple of decent chances in the 5-1 home rout of FC Cincinnati two matches ago that went overlooked because of the lopsided nature of the victory.
Had Higuain done better with the limited chances he was given, Inter Miami may have picked up a bigger haul than the zero points the team got from this last pair of meetings. Goals change games, and the star striker is paid very handsomely to score for the South Florida side.
He did not do that clinically enough late on in the year, though, contributing to the team’s playoff-less demise.
Federico Higuain bids farewell with decent display
The final result on Saturday may not have been the one Inter Miami wanted, but one feel-good subplot from the match was Federico Higuain playing the final game of his accomplished career.
A day after emotionally announcing that he was ready to hang up his cleats, Federico played in an MLS match for the last time. He started vs. NYCFC and captained Inter Miami, a first for him, and while he did not overwhelm with his magic on the ball possibly due to emotions he did come close to dazzling.
Just before being substituted off in the 55th minute to a loud standing ovation, the 37-year-old playmaker had a ball fall to him just inside the right corner of the penalty area. He controlled it with a deft touch, allowed the ball to take a bounce, and then smacked a hard half-volley on frame that Johnson got a hand to. The ball then smacked off the crossbar, but rather than bounce into the goal it deflected outwardly.
Federico may not have gotten a dream sending off from a results standpoint, but he was able to have quite an experience in his last game. He was able to bid farewell to the game he loves with his brother by his side on the field, with other members of the family in attendance, and showing he can still compete at this level.