FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It may have come down to Inter Miami’s mentality or it may have been as simple as Inter Miami’s performance.
Regardless of what it was, Inter Miami played what head coach Diego Alonso described as the team’s worst game of the year.
Inter Miami suffered the biggest defeat in its expansion season on Wednesday night, suffering a 4-1 rout to the New York Red Bulls. The lopsided result dropped Inter Miami back into last place in the Eastern Conference, ended the South Florida side’s unbeaten record at home, and raised plenty of questions as to what exactly went wrong after never before losing by more than a single goal.
For Inter Miami captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles, a lot of it came down to the team’s mindset.
“We didn’t start the game right. We didn’t respect our opponent,” said Robles. “Any time you come onto the field thinking that it is going to be a kick around and you can go through the motions and that you are such a good team that you can just play teams off the park, it is just the wrong mentality to have.”
Inter Miami head coach Diego Alonso did not want to touch on Robles’ comments nor say if he agreed or not, but the Uruguayan manager eventually went on to state that he thought the team’s mental approach was fine.
“I have nothing to reproach the players about in terms of the attitude,” said Alonso in Spanish. “Yes, I didn’t like our game and we did very few things well, but I can’t reproach anything in terms of the attitude. I think they put in a tremendous effort.”
For Alonso, the problem lied more with Inter Miami’s inability to better deal with the Red Bulls’ trademark high press. That was clear as crystal on the decisive play in the 49th minute, as left back Ben Sweat was forced into an errant pass that the Red Bulls quickly turned into a Brian White goal.
“The game plan was very simple,” said Alonso. “If they did not press us high, it was to try and build out through numerical advantages. If they did press us high, it was to try and run in behind their fullbacks where there were very big spaces.
“When we did that, we had a very big advantage. When we did not, they clearly got the better of us when we tried to pass through the middle.”
Inter Miami’s lone tally came off a play when the ball was played behind the Red Bulls’ defense into that kind of space, but moments like that were too few and far between.
Inter Miami struggled essentially from the first whistle, giving up a pair of decent looks before ultimately conceding via a 14th-minute penalty that midfielder Blaise Matuidi gave away with a clumsy challenge.
“The whole time we were just reacting,” said Robles. “Just reacting, reacting, reacting instead of being the aggressor, instead of putting the game on our terms. When you do that, it is no surprise when you end up losing a game.”
“To come into the game as flat as we did, to be as reactive as we were, it’s too bad,” added Robles. “It really is.”
As disappointing and frustrating as the humbling defeat may be, Inter Miami has to move on from it quickly. A road game against the Philadelphia Union is on the cards for Sunday, and the expansion side will need to be at its best, both mentally and physically, to have a shot at picking up three points.
“This was our worst game,” said Alonso. “They were better than us.”