LOS ANGELES — Inter Miami has publicly stated that it is in the market for a foreign-based No. 9 that can fill the team’s final Designated Player slot.
Well, the sooner the better.
Inter Miami lost, 1-0, to LAFC in a much-anticipated opener on Sunday, and the match highlighted the expansion team’s massive need for a proven, goal-scoring striker. Rookie forward Robbie Robinson did a commendable job up top in his first professional match, but just does not have the type of quality yet to make a real difference against Major League Soccer’s top teams. His inability to cleanly bring the ball down and pull the trigger on the one notable opportunity he had in the second half clearly demonstrated that.
The young Robinson will grow and he might be serviceable enough to get the job done against the league’s lesser sides, especially if the team can play with the intensity it showed in Los Angeles. That said, Inter Miami will need an upgrade if it is to seriously compete with the LAFCs, Seattle Sounders, and Atlanta Uniteds on a consistent basis.
And that is where Inter Miami wants to be. The new franchise has talked repeatedly about competing for cups right out of the gate, and the only way that is going to happen is if it signs a lethal finisher to round out its roster.
It is not just about the goals, either. Having a bigger threat at center forward would also help open up things for the rest of the team. Too many times on Sunday afternoon playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro found himself isolated from Robinson and trying to make things happen all on his own. A more talented option would give Pizarro a better target to create for, and take this team up a level.
Inter Miami has said it may wait until the summer to sign the striker, which hints at the possibility of it being a household name. The team definitely needs a star, but it needs a goal-scorer just as much. Getting that No. 9 should be the No. 1 priority right now, and something that should be done as soon as possible.
Figal shines in MLS debut
There may not have been many standout performances for Inter Miami on Sunday, but Nicolas Figal definitely delivered one.
The Argentine centerback was one of the biggest bright spots for Inter Miami at Banc of California Stadium, showcasing an array of tools with and without the ball. Figal was not only good with his defending, but was overall solid in his passing and even made a deep penetrating run on the dribble in the second half.
Figal has all the look of a centerback that Inter Miami can build around. Granted, this was one game and he could have maybe done better on the goal, but overall this was a very solid first showing in MLS.
Powell shaky at right back
If there was one position of concern after Sunday, it was the right back spot.
MLS veteran Alvas Powell lined up there, but struggled in both facets of play. The Jamaican had a tough time connecting passes down the flank, and also looked suspect in his defending. Now it must be said, he did not have the easiest of assignments in marking the likes of Carlos Vela, but regardless he did not do much to instill confidence in being the long-term solution at right back.
Sure, he showed plenty of effort and fight, but not a whole lot of quality. Diego Alonso will surely be thinking plenty about this in the coming days.
Inter Miami Player Ratings
Luis Robles (6.5) — Came up with a huge save early on, made a number of other stops, and was only beaten by absolute magic from Vela.
Alvas Powell (4) — Showed effort but was overall poor on both sides of the ball, even after changing cleats at halftime. The weakest link in the debut.
Roman Torres (5.5) — Struggled to pass in the face of LAFC’s pressure, but was overall solid in his defending.
Nicolas Figal (6) — An impressive all-around showing demonstrated why he was called up by Argentina last year. An unfortunate bounce on the LAFC winner was probably his biggest slight.
Ben Sweat (5.5) — Looked shaky early on but gained confidence as the match wore on. Was also a regular outlet in advanced positions in the attack.
Victor Ulloa (4.5) — Scrapped and clawed but failed to make an impact in the attack and was inaccurate with his passing, which hurt Inter Miami. Smartly hit Vela with a professional foul to earn a yellow.
Wil Trapp (5) — The more active of the two central midfielders, though he wasn’t that clean with his distribution either and had some poor turnovers.
Lewis Morgan (5) — Found space down the wing well but could not do much in his 1-on-1 battles. His set-piece delivery also left something to be desired.
Rodolfo Pizarro (6) — Most of Inter Miami’s best moments involved the Mexican international, who showed good vision and qualities on the ball.
Matias Pellegrini (4.5) — Had one of Inter Miami’s most dangerous looks in the first half, but all in all was largely quiet before being subbed off.
Robbie Robinson (5) — Was involved often and probably should have drawn a couple more fouls, but lacked that last bit of quality in the final third.
Lee Nguyen (5) — Came in to a loud ovation but failed to make much of an impact after replacing the injured Ulloa.
Juan Agudelo (5) — Showed confidence on the ball and tried to combine with short passes, something Inter Miami needed more of on the day.
Christian Makoun (5) — Entered the game to form a three-man back line and was competent with his defending.
Diego Alonso (5.5) — Might have taken a tad bit too long to make the second and third subs, but the game plan was decent on the whole.