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Grading Inter Miami: Poor spacing, league-worst attack, and more


Inter Miami is in shambles right now.

The South Florida side suffered its fifth consecutive defeat and sixth in the last seven matches via Saturday night’s 1-0 road loss vs. CF Montreal. The result plummeted Inter Miami to penultimate place in the Eastern Conference, and the scoreline was not truly indicative of just how poor the team was at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Inter Miami was a disorganized and disastrous mess at the start of the game, looking nothing like the team that has been hard to break down over the past two weeks. The Herons’ spacing in between lines was all wrong during the entirety of the first half, as the front six in the 4-2-3-1 formation regularly took up advanced spots higher up the field when defending the ball while the back line perplexingly dropped into deeper ones.

Teams normally aim to keep their lines tight with minimal space in between so as to keep a solid shape and not give opponents that much room to play in or through. The disconnect between Inter Miami’s defense and the rest of the team, however, left open what seemed like an acre of land in between the midfield and backline. As a result, the team practically played as two separate groups rather than a cohesive unit that moves up and down the field together when without the ball.

That Inter Miami failed to execute this basic concept, including on the game-winning goal in the 41st minute (backline in yellow and midfield line in baby blue), comes down to coaching. How a team sets up positionally and moves about on the field is something that is worked on in practice, and to come out in such a disjointed and jumbled manner from the start after having a full week’s worth of training, even if interrupted at times due to the weather, is baffling.

It would be one thing if a solitary player was tactically out of place and causing a domino effect of sorts, but these were entire lines that were not on the same page. That falls on head coach Phil Neville, whose message might not be reaching the team and whose methods should be coming into question given this prolonged string of not only poor results but performances, too.

Neville will have time over the next two weeks to better analyze, assess, and correct these types of issues, but they probably should not even be happening in the first place.

“We are losing too many games,” said Neville after the match that moved his side to 2-7-2 on the season. “We now need to stand up every single one of us, myself more than anyone, to make sure that we are all absolutely better.”

Anemic attack is worst in MLS

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Inter Miami might have two of the best-paid attackers in all of MLS, but through 11 weeks the team has the worst attack in the league.

Inter Miami on Saturday was left without a goal for the fourth time during this five-match losing streak and sixth time overall this season. The Herons have in total produced a league-low nine goals in 2021, and chances continue to come at a premium.

The team managed to put just three shots on target vs. CF Montreal, and that paltry output continues an alarming trend that has seen Inter Miami produce very little in the final third. It has been mentioned in this space that Neville’s side lacks profundity when in possession — something that was still the case even after the Herons moved into the W-M (or 3-2-2-3) formation against the Canadian outfit in the second half  — but you only need to see these stats from the last five matches to see why the team is losing so often:

Three shots on target in 1-0 loss vs. CF Montreal
Three shots on target in 2-1 loss vs. Orlando City
One shot on target in 1-0 loss vs. D.C. United
Three shots on target in 3-0 loss vs. D.C. United
One shot on target in 1-0 loss vs. Chicago Fire

There is very little being generated in the final third, to say almost nothing of the lack of efficiency with the chances that are created nor the inability to consistently combine with 1-2 passes or triangulation.

One possible remedy for the attacking issues is to get Gonzalo Higuain and Rodolfo Pizarro back into the starting lineup. The two Designated Players have been used as of late in substitute roles for varying reasons, but getting them on the field again from the onset and for longer stretches could help Inter Miami become more dangerous with the ball — even if it means losing some of the effort and fight on the defensive side that has been prioritized of late.

“Those players that have been brought to the club to produce moments of magic, to produce match-winning performances, to produce match-winning crosses, the players that we expect to do that now have to deliver,” said Neville. “That is what the demand will be. It is unacceptable. We have to now deliver. That is not a threat. That is just a reality of where we are at this moment in time.”

Of course the team could also do with addressing…

Set-piece woes extend into second straight season

Inter Miami has a set-piece specialist on its technical staff, but there is nothing special about its attacking set pieces right now.

The team has yet to score from a corner kick this season, and, if you take away penalties, has only one goal off dead-ball situations this year that came back in Week 2. The struggles from this facet of play are concerning on their own given that Inter Miami is about a third of the way through the MLS campaign, but what makes them all the more worrisome is that this was an area that the South Florida side had problems with in 2020 under former head coach Diego Alonso.

One of the reasons documented during last year’s troubles was a lack of true targets in the 18-yard box. Inter Miami may have some players with decent to good size, but centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez continues to be the only consistent threat. No one else regularly shows the type of conviction, timing, or aggressiveness needed to attack the ball and win the aerial battles.

Neville has seemingly become aware of this. Inter Miami has done some different things with its corner kicks as of late, including sending low passes backwards to fullbacks for crosses from deep, but it has all been to no avail.

Scoring off set pieces is a big part of the game, and a good percentage of all goals come from them. That Inter Miami has not been able to make the most of dead-ball situations is only further adding to its headaches, as the Herons are neither getting themselves into or winning matches in that manner during a stretch in which they need all the attacking help they can get.

Inter Miami Player Ratings

John McCarthy (6.5) — Made the saves asked of him, including one big stop, and was very good coming off his line. Could do nothing on the winner.

Kelvin Leerdam (6) — Got forward to provide width on the right without making much of an impact, and made one goal-saving intervention.

Nicolas Figal (7.5) — A strong defensive display that saw him cover the spaces left by the marauding Leerdam well while also passing precisely.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (7.5) — Another good showing in which he put out a number of fires and was accurate when moving the ball.

Christian Makoun (6.5) — His pair of goal-line clearances were worth gold, but could have done better in some of his 1-on-1 duels.

Gregore (6.5) — Was his usual hard-nosed self, looking sharp on both sides of the ball even with the team’s lines being so out of sorts.

Blaise Matuidi (5.5) — Regressed from last week’s display, as he was subpar defensively despite being fairly good when in possession.

Lewis Morgan (3.5) — Taking up more central positions at times, struggled with both his decision-making with the ball and defensive responsibilities.

Jay Chapman (5) — By design provided more industry than creativity, but his sharpness with the ball started to fade in the second half and he was removed.

Brek Shea (2.5) — Demonstrated a concerning apathy defensively from the onset, and on the winner, before rightfully being substituted at halftime.

Julian Carranza (4) — Yet another ineffective start, though he was again starved of service.

Gonzalo Higuain (4.5) — Brought some new ideas after coming on at halftime, but forced things too often and looked a step slow. Also should have done better on his quality look late.

Rodolfo Pizarro (5) — Had his share of touches without creating any real danger in his cameo off the bench.

Federico Higuain (N/A) — Too few touches to make an impact after entering in the 88th minute.

Ryan Shawcross (N/A) — Came on in the dying moments to serve as a target striker rather than a centerback.

Phil Neville (2.5) – The team inexplicably came out on different pages, with the front six taking up advanced positions without the ball while the defense stayed deeper. His change to the W-M formation in the second half improved things, but the attack remained largely toothless.


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