CF Montreal laid out the blueprint for how to beat Inter Miami a week-and-a-half ago. The Chicago Fire followed it to near perfection.
Inter Miami endured a rough performance en route to its third defeat of the season on Saturday in a 1-0 loss away to the Chicago Fire, who copied some of what CF Montreal did tactically on May 12 in a 2-0 win over the South Florida side. The Fire came out pressing Inter Miami from the first minute, refusing to allow the Herons to build out comfortably from the back.
Similar to in last week’s win over FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami initially tried to force the issue by playing into central areas to attempt to begin attacking sequences. The Fire clearly had planned for that, however, and regularly pushed the players in their front three into advanced positions to harry Inter Miami goalkeeper John McCarthy, centerbacks Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Ryan Shawcross, and central midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Gregore.
The Fire also sent other players into Inter Miami’s defensive half to squeeze and suffocate Phil Neville’s team, and it worked wonders. Inter Miami lost possession early and often, easily and quickly. That led to a change in approach that saw the Herons try to be more direct by hitting long balls upfield, but that tactical switch did not work either as Inter Miami admittedly failed to win 50-50s and second balls with any regularity.
“We had moments in the first half where we came through that and we showed a bit of dominance, but if you are going to start the game like that you are going to struggle,” said centerback Ryan Shawcross. “We can talk about how we want to play and what we want to do and where we want to go, but football is about hard work. Today was not a great example of how you win games and how you win games in the MLS.”
How Inter Miami adapts tactically going forward to being pressed deep in its half will bare watching. The formula is out for how to make life very difficult on the Herons, and how they adjust to that will be key to their future success.
matuidi continues to underperform
This deflating loss is not on any one player, but Blaise Matuidi’s inability to help win the battle in the midfield continues to stand out.
Matuidi once again had a subpar showing vs. the Fire, struggling to both move the ball and defend against it. The Frenchman also ceded possession a handful of times by either taking poor touches or getting stripped of the ball rather easily in an overall performance that was nowhere near the level that a Designated Player should be at.
Inter Miami on the whole needs to improve and be more consistent, but Matuidi is one of the players that has to raise his play. It has been some time since the 34-year-old central midfielder has had a truly influential showing, and that cannot continue if the Herons are going to put up more of a fight in the center of the park.
Why Matuidi has failed to deliver the type of outings that you would expect from a player of his experience, pedigree, and caliber is not entirely clear. It could be down to a lack of hunger or desire at this late stage of his accomplished career, him slowing down as part of the natural process of getting older, or something else entirely. Either way, Inter Miami needs more from the player who is supposed to be one of its midfield aces.
a closer inspection into robinson’s health is needed
Robbie Robinson is only a season and change into his professional career, and already the injuries have begun to pile up.
Robinson suffered an apparent hamstring strain in his left leg for the third time this year on Saturday, pulling up lame while racing forward inside the final quarter-hour before falling to the ground in tears. The attacker left the field in the 80th minute with his jersey over his face and accompanied by head athletic trainer Kei Utsumi, who will need to take a closer inspection as to why the 22-year-old Robinson continues to run into injury issues.
Robinson had tweaked his left hamstring twice earlier in the first six weeks of this campaign, to say nothing of the apparent knee injury he suffered in the second game of his rookie season in 2020.
“The first time I think we take responsibility because we probably did rush him back,” said Neville of the recurring hamstring issues. “I say we rushed him back, (but) he met all the protocols, all the processes, all the trainings. This time we probably took an extra 10 days with him, so I think what we need to do now is we need to investigate a little bit more.
“He is a speed type player. I have played with these players in the past. When you are built on speed, you are susceptible to these injuries and it is the recurring ones that we need to make sure that never happens because you see the reaction of the boy, he is devastated. We are devastated for him.”
Whether this has been a case of bad luck or something else, Inter Miami needs to take a deep dive to see how it can keep Robinson healthy. Both for his benefit and the team’s.
inter miami player ratings
John McCarthy (5.5) — His decisive howler stained what would have been a Man of the Match-type performance.
Victor Ulloa (4) — Had trouble in his 1-on-1 battles and did not offer much with the ball at his feet.
Ryan Shawcross (6) — Held up well at the back even when the Fire applied pressure with waves of attacks.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (5) — Unnecessarily earned a yellow card that rules him out next week, but was decent all things considered before coming off at halftime.
Joevin Jones (3.5) — Was lucky early on when he got caught ball-watching, and did not convince on either side of play in his return to the lineup.
Gregore (6) — The one starting Inter Miami field player who really made his presence felt by breaking things up regularly in the center of the park.
Blaise Matuidi (4.5) — Struggled with his touches and the Fire’s pressure, losing possession too cheaply on a few occasions.
Lewis Morgan (5) — Hit a couple of threatening balls, but was largely a non-factor from the run of play with only 32 touches.
Federico Higuain (4) — A far cry from his previous appearances, as he struggled to influence the game and failed to put a decent chance on target.
Brek Shea (4) — Only nine touches before being replaced at halftime.
Gonzalo Higuain (5.5) — Starved of service once again, but hit a good range of accurate passes when dropping to pick up the ball.
Nicolas Figal (6) — Showed character after entering the match at halftime, and got the team’s only shot on goal with a headed effort.
Robbie Robinson (4.5) — Never really found the game after being subbed in before leaving the game in tears with another apparent hamstring injury.
Julian Carranza (5) — Came close to equalizing on a header that went wide and showed some energy.
Christian Makoun (6) — Helped shore things up at the back with several interventions after entering in the 62nd minute.
Sami Guediri (5) — A serviceable late replacement.
Phil Neville (3) – Had no real Plan B after the Fire’s press proved too suffocating, with long ball after long ball sent forward to players who regularly lost their individual battles.