For one of few moments this season, Inter Miami will have a full complement of players to lean on.
Just in time for a potentially make-or-break week, too.
Inter Miami has three matches remaining in its regular season, and two will be played over the next few days. Road games against FC Dallas and Toronto FC are on the agenda for Wednesday and Sunday, respectively, and Inter Miami will likely need to pick up some points in order to stay in the playoff spot it finally moved into this past weekend.
The good news for the 10th-placed expansion side is that star striker Gonzalo Higuain will be available for selection again after serving a one-game ban, returning next to the likes of Blaise Matuidi and Rodolfo Pizarro to complete a roster that has seldom been fully together in 2020 for various reasons.
“It’s obviously a satisfaction,” said head coach Diego Alonso in Spanish on Tuesday. “We waited for these moments for a long time. We would have liked to have had it happen more times in the season, but unfortunately … we haven’t been able to have all the players. Otherwise, I think the team would have come together differently with more time and more games together.
“Luckily, in the final stage we have everyone, so we’re happy.”
Higuain’s return after sitting out the Saturday win vs. Orlando City due to a red card he received the week prior will serve as a big boost. Inter Miami has scored just 21 times this season, and could certainly use his goal-scoring prowess in the games to come.
“Who wouldn’t want to have Gonzalo in their starting XI,” said right back Dylan Nealis. “It is definitely huge to have him back. I think it’ll only make us stronger and hopefully he can put some goals away and make it easy for us tomorrow.”
Here are more news and notes from Inter Miami:
Alonso not focused on outside results
Inter Miami could get into the playoffs if other games go the team’s way, but Alonso is not focused on that. He wants Inter Miami to qualify outright for the postseason with positive results during this final stage rather than do so by relying on outside help and scoreboard watching.
“Honestly, I do not care what happens with the rest of the matches,” said Alonso. “The most important thing is us. The ones that have to help us is us. The ones that have to pick up points is us. We have to do our job.
“In soccer all teams pick up and drop points, but if we win the points we need then we will surely remain in the fight going into the final game, so that’s what it’s about. It’s about us doing our job first and not thinking about others doing it for us.”
Nealis: “We’re ready to go to war”
One recurring issue for Inter Miami this season has been consistency. The team has struggled to win consecutive matches, and knows that finding a way to do so again will be key in this late stage of the campaign.
“I think we’ve struggled this year with playing two games back-to-back,” said Nealis. “I think it was once or twice that we actually did win two games in a row, so I think the biggest thing is consistency for us. How can we minimize our mistakes and punish them on theirs?”
That starts on Wednesday night vs. FC Dallas.
“We’re preparing for a war out there,” said Nealis. “We know going into it it’s like a playoff game. Playoffs already started for us because I think we have realized if we drop points, there’s not a great chance that we continue the rest of the season.
“We’re treating it like a playoff game, a final. We’re ready to go to war.”
Alonso notes team’s high set-piece quantity
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s dramatic headed winner vs. Orlando City marked the first corner kick goal and second off a set piece this season for Inter Miami, not counting penalties. That haul of two tallies in 20 matches is not an overly impressive one, but Alonso pointed to his team’s success in generating those types of opportunities on Tuesday.
“We have not been a team that has scored many goals off set pieces, but we are the third-best team in MLS and first in our conference in terms of the amount of dead-ball situations and times in which our players have had an advantage,” said Alonso. “We haven’t scored many goals off set pieces aside from the one over the weekend and a few others, but it is a tool that can help you win or open up a game.
“But you can’t focus a training session on that. The training sessions have to be focused on a lot of other things. There are many things to train on for a coach, because in order to have set pieces you have to have reach the final third.”