FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Wil Trapp said it best after leaving Inter Miami this past winter.
This group is a collection of individuals.
Inter Miami suffered its second loss of the year on Wednesday night via a 2-0 home defeat to CF Montreal, and all that the weather-delayed match at Drv Pnk Stadium did was shine a bright light on how the South Florida side is not a team. Rather than be a truly unified group of players that fight and work for one another with the type of selflessness and sacrifice that CF Montreal did, the Herons showed yet again that they are more just a ragtag bunch of pieces that operate largely on their own accord.
We have heard mentions of this in the past — be it from A.J. DeLaGarza after last year’s playoff loss to Nashville SC or Trapp this offseason — but never has it been more crystal clear. Inter Miami’s midweek performance was embarrassing, a total disaster, and the worst in franchise history. Yes, almost every team has a bad game at some point, but these dismal outings have been seen plenty since last year in good part because players do not play as a collective.
You needed to look no further than Inter Miami’s Designated Players on Wednesday to see that. All three of Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro, and Blaise Matuidi were on the field vs. CF Montreal, and each of them barely influenced the game.
An indifferent Higuain walked about without putting much effort on either side of the ball — so much so that head coach Phil Neville had to yell at him to run into the box on one attacking play in the second half — Pizarro looked a disconnected and lost loner for the umpteenth time, and Matuidi was once again a passive, defensive liability in the center of the park that covered ground aimlessly.
Of course, this failure vs. CF Montreal is not just on them, but their awful, individualistic performances are a microcosm of the real issues that have plagued Inter Miami since its inception in 2020.
“I think in football you need 11 players, 12 players — now it is more, it is five subs, it is 16 players — to contribute to make the individuals play really well,” said Neville when asked why Inter Miami’s DPs are not playing up to their level. “I said it in the team talk on Sunday before Atlanta, that for individuals like Gonzalo, like Pizarro, our special players, for them to get the golden boot to become MLS Player of the Year or whatever the accolades, you cannot do that on your own.
“I think I have seen that in the last 30 years of football. Without the work ethic, without the togetherness, without the team ethos, individuals do not individually do well on their own.”
Whether this can be corrected with the current group is unclear. In addition to the lack of unity and cohesiveness between players that has become more and more evident, this Inter Miami roster also lacks an alarming amount of speed and technique.
CF Montreal seemed to know that, which is why the Canadian side regularly sent up to nine players into Inter Miami’s half to press in the one-sided first half. There was no real fear of getting beat by runs in behind or intricate passing sequences, which is why Wilfried Nancy deployed a high defensive line that saw his players smother the Herons in advanced positions en route to scoring two goals in a pretty dominant opening 45 minutes.
Clearly, Neville has to change some things. Benching Matuidi seems a no-brainer and sitting Pizarro should be contemplated, too. Still, there are deeper issues in terms of the team make-up and chemistry that need to be resolved.
neville changed formation MULTIPLE TIMES
One tactical development that was seen in this one was Neville changing the formation of his side several times. Inter Miami started in its usual 4-2-3-1 system, and looked set to remain in that shape even after Federico Higuain was subbed on for Jay Chapman at the start of the second half.
Neville seems to have changed his mind during the two-hour weather delay that began after only a minute was played in the closing stanza. The English manager had the Herons come out in the old school W-M formation — otherwise known as a 3-2-2-3 or 3-4-3 boxed midfield — in an attempt to give his side more numbers in the attack.
Neville advanced Lewis Morgan and Brek Shea into the front line, with the wide duo flanking striker Gonzalo, while Federico and Pizarro operated underneath in central positions as joint No. 10s. Gregore and Matuidi played behind them — thus forming that boxed midfield — and Victor Ulloa, Ryan Shawcross, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez comprised the back line.
It worked in the sense that it gave Inter Miami more possession and a better ability to dictate the tempo vs. a CF Montreal side that became content with protecting its lead by hitting on the counter, but the Herons still finished the second half without a shot on target.
Ultimately, Neville made more substitutions and moved back to a 4-2-3-1 late in the match. The head coach still wanted his fullbacks to get into the attack often to create overloads, but it also did not lead to any real danger, meaning the search for Inter Miami’s best team and formation continues.
jones IMPRESSES OFF BENCH
If there was one Inter Miami player that really saved himself from the disaster that was this forgettable showing by turning in a solid shift, it was Joevin Jones.
Jones came into the match in the 63rd minute for Brek Shea, and the Trinidad and Tobago international immediately made his presence felt. He showed a willingness to go at Clement Bayiha down the left flank and got the better of the CF Montreal wingback several times with good dribbling moves.
Jones’ final product was not the best, but he improved the collective play and saved face on a night that saw too few Inter Miami players do the same. The veteran had been dealing with fitness issues at the start of the season, but if this is a sample of what he might offer as he gets closer to his best then Inter Miami will soon have one more serious option to consider for its sputtering attack.
Inter Miami Player Ratings
John McCarthy (4) — Made two big saves in the second half, but his indecision on the opener left him poorly positioned and the near post open.
Victor Ulloa (5) — While the makeshift right back had some trouble defensively, he mostly held his own and was not at fault for either goal.
Ryan Shawcross (4) — Subpar with his marking on Bjorn Johnsen on the insurance tally, and had a couple ugly giveaways.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (2) — His worst performance ever in an Inter Miami jersey. Involved in the first goal, directly responsible for the second, and had several turnovers.
Brek Shea (6) — Kept his side of the field largely on lock and had the team’s only shot on goal with a sizzling first-half effort.
Gregore (5) — Had several good interventions while also struggling at times in the first half against CF Montreal’s dizzying string of passes.
Blaise Matuidi (3.5) — Passed well, but his defensive issues were on display again, including when he failed to follow his mark on the 14th-minute winner.
Lewis Morgan (5.5) — Whipped in a steady dose of crosses and was the only starting attacker to really save face.
Jay Chapman (4.5) — Moved the ball well, but did not create a whole lot nor get that many touches as the No. 10 before coming off.
Rodolfo Pizarro (3) — His trademark Joker face goal celebration has been replaced by Casper-like showings. Another ghost of a performance.
Gonzalo Higuain (3) — Had the fewest amount of touches of any starting Inter Miami field player, was largely a non-factor from the run of play, and got a yellow card for his troubles.
Federico Higuain (4.5) — Not his best substitute cameo, with some sloppy turnovers. Should have also done better on his look inside the penalty area.
Joevin Jones (6.5) — One of the only Inter Miami players to make his presence felt, he tested CF Montreal with several good dribbles down the wing.
Kelvin Leerdam (5) — A serviceable 17-minute showing off the bench.
Edison Azcona (N/A) — Came on very late and only got on the ball a handful of times.
Phil Neville (3.5) – His team was a disaster in the first half, struggling defensively, imprecise in the build-out, and toothless in the attack. Things got better after the delay with his switch to the W-M formation, but not enough to really threaten CF Montreal.