FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It is quite the challenge for any team to try to go into Banc of California Stadium and stand toe-to-toe with Carlos Vela and LAFC, and even more so when it is an expansion team that is still jelling.
Yet that is exactly what Inter Miami is planning to do.
Some six years after David Beckham announced his plans to launch a club in South Florida, Inter Miami is set to finally play its much-anticipated MLS opener on Sunday against reigning Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC. The star-studded showdown in Los Angeles will present the type of difficult first test that could lead some coaches to adopt a more conservative or defensive style, but Inter Miami has no intention of doing that.
The new team wants to stay true to its fledgling proactive identity, and is planning to go toe-to-toe with LAFC this weekend.
“We’re going to have a style of play that we maintain because we believe in it,” said Inter Miami head coach Diego Alonso in Spanish this week. “Do we have to work on it? Surely. Are we going to have errors? Surely. Do we need to get better individually and collectively and work more? I don’t doubt it. It’s not going to all come out perfect on the first day.
“But we have a lot of confidence in our ability and we have a lot of confidence in the ability of the players and we have a lot of confidence in the style of play. It has made us champions almost everywhere we have been and we believe in our idea until the death and we’ll defend it 100 percent.”
If Inter Miami is indeed not planning to take a counterattacking approach, Sunday could prove to be quite the spectacle. Led by 2019 league MVP Vela, LAFC has broken records in MLS with an aggressive style that also stresses keeping the ball on the ground and taking the game to the opponent. That being the case, both teams might leave plenty of space in behind this weekend, which should lead to plenty of chances and, potentially, goals.
Inter Miami knows that winning, however, will not be easy — even with LAFC coming off short rest after playing in the Concacaf Champions League on Thursday night.
“It’s a tall order,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “It’s a tall order in the sense of it being the first game for an expansion team going against the Supporters’ Shield winners from a year ago, but it’s the challenge you want as a competitor.
“I think for us it’s not shying away from the big moments and being brave and taking the lessons that we’ve seen and done in training every day.”
While Inter Miami is both eager and excited about Sunday’s affair, the team is not heading into this first match at full strength. Young forward Julian Carranza is sidelined with a foot injury, and Juan Agudelo is coming off a slight hamstring problem. Agudelo resumed full training during the second half of the week, according to Alonso, but whether the veteran attacker is fit enough to start and play 90 minutes is unclear.
If Agudelo cannot go the distance and is thus left out of the lineup, someone else will have to step up to help put the ball in the back of the net. Rookie forward Robbie Robinson is an option up top as is Jerome Kiesewetter, though the goal-scoring burden could also fall on star playmaker and Designated Player Rodolfo Pizarro.
Regardless of who can be the No. 1 scoring threat, Inter Miami is heading to Los Angeles looking to start life in MLS with three points. The team might be an expansion side but it has ambitious plans, including trying to make a statement by taking to the road and going blow for blow with LAFC.
“I think a win would turn a lot of heads,” said Pizarro in Spanish. “We’d land a hit with authority, and emotionally it would also do us a lot of good. It would be very important.”