Fort Lauderdale, FL. – Expansion clubs Nashville SC and Club Internacional de Futbol Miami met for the second consecutive Sunday evening, and this time, on a steamy September evening in Fort Lauderdale, they split the spoils, with an otherwise entertaining game ending without a goal.
Blaise Matuidi Debut a Success in Inter Miami Draw With Nashville
The game did mark the MLS debut for French World Champion and former PSG and Juventus stalwart Blaise Matuidi. While the addition of a ball-circulating midfielder clearly steadied the home team, Inter Miami were once again undone by a lack of clinical finishing in front of net.
The result had to be frustrating for Inter Miami manager Diego Alonso, who knew ahead of the match that for his team to truly build off the midweek draw they earned in Atlanta, they’d need to be more dangerous in attack and start the game faster and cleaner.
“I thought we played a complete game in Atlanta in the sense that we defended and looked more likely to score and were the team creating more chances. But we can improve. We need to improve (against Nashville) on the offensive end. We need to generate consistent chances, start the game cleanly and be more clinical in our finishing when we generate opportunities,” Alonso told the media ahead of the game.
Alonso got only half of what he wanted, and the team’s continued lack of quality in front of net clearly had the manager frustrated after the game.
“I think without a doubt not being able to score a goal is affecting us. I think it affects not only the results of matches– if you score you win games and more points, but it also affects our confidence as a team. I think if we score, it impacts the level of our football and certainly when we missed the early chances it hurt us tonight.”
Alonso did, however, get a fast start.
After an extended lightning delay, Inter Miami did manage their fastest start since a pre-COVID roadtrip in DC, generating the bulk of the chances in the game’s first half.
The pink and black’s first chance came almost instantly.
A deep, probing run by Ben Sweat in the game’s second minute saw the veteran fullback play Julian Carranza through, only for the young Argentine to push his effort wide of Nashville keeper Joe Willis.
That was a signal of intent, however, from an Inter Miami side intent on heeding their manager’s call to start games faster.
As for the much-anticipated debut of Matuidi, he was incredibly efficient even if he wasn’t spectacular.
The French midfielder’s impact on the South Florida side was felt from his first extended touch. That sequence came in the 5th minute, when, instead of playing a safe, sideways pass to a defender or a back pass to keeper Luis Robles, Matuidi opted to carry the ball out of the defensive third, juking a pressuring Dominique Badji and advancing nearly 20 yards before Rodolfo Pizarro showed for the ball. Pizarro took a pass cleanly and initiated an attack the other direction, the sequence showing that with Matuidi, the Herons will not only retain possession, but will be able to more consistently build it from the back, something Diego Alonso wants to do but has been unable to do without a conduit between his midfield and the more advanced linebreaker Pizarro.
“Obviously, I’m a little bit tired. I only had two training sessions with the team and it has been a while since I played a full game. WIth that said, I’m happy about my performance in the game and pleased with the result, though it was not the result we hoped for. But we will keep working together and get ready for the Atlanta game Wednesday,” Matuidi said after his debut.
His manager was pleased with his efforts.
“I really thought that Blaise did a great job tonight, especially given he had only a few training sessions with the team. You saw his quality, you saw his intelligence and understanding of the game. And he’ll only and we’ll only improve the more he trains with our team.”
Minutes after his first touch of the ball, Matuidi did indeed show his quality when he created a great chance for Pizarro, threading a ball between two defenders to the Mexican international in space. Instead of wrapping his foot around the ball, however, Pizarro tried to aim it home with a toe poke, resulting in a shot that missed wide and a stunned look on Pizarro’s face.
In the 20th minute, another chance came for Pizarro again- this time when a great Lewis Morgan cross somehow missed the diving foot of Carranza and fell to Juan Agudelo, who smartly recrossed to and onrunning Pizarro, only to see the Miami number 10 again miss the goal frame and toss up his arms in frustration.
Still, Matuidi wasn’t discouraged by the missed opportunities.
“I’ve watched the team play and there’s not much missing in terms of quality and what we need to be successful. We have some excellent pieces and we will work on being a better team finishing our chances,” Matuiidi said.
As for Nashville, their best chances of the opening half came on set pieces.
The first, in the 24th minute, saw Walker Zimmerman win a header and hammer it goalward towards Dominique Badji. The Nashville forward got a foot to the ball, but Robles got a piece of it, slowing it down just enough for an emergency goalline clearance by Figal to keep the game scoreless.
Miami’s defense was again stretched by Nashville in the 40th minute, when Anibal Godoy, the hero of the last meeting between these two sides, was beautifully played through by Hany Mukhtar, only to see young Colombian Andrés Felipe Reyes slide in well at the last instant to force a corner. Nashville looked very dangerous again on the ensuing set piece, but Alex Muyl’s feed to Randall Leal missed the target.
That was the last quality chance for either side in the first half, with a scoreless draw after 45 minutes probably a very fair result.
The visitors seized the immediate initiative in the second half.
Alex Muyl, who was one of Nashville’s most productive passers on the evening, played the dangerous Mukhtar through and with a step on his defender, the young German squared up Robles, only to be denied expertly by the veteran keeper.
Sensing a momentum shift, Diego Alonso went to his bench, calling on first-round draft pick Robbie Robinson for Carranza. The change nearly paid instant dividends, when a lovely piece of buildup play, initiated by Pizarro, resulted in a fine Robinson run and shot that was saved well by Willis.
It was the type of seam-bursting run Inter Miami haven’t gotten enough this year from their forwards, and just what Alonso hopes he’ll see more of as his young forward corps continues to mature.
Inter controlled possession throughout the second half, but, as has been the case throughout this often frustrating inaugural season, the final ball– and the finished product- was lacking.
Still, playing a fellow expansion side at home, you’d have thought Diego Alonso would have been aggressive with his substitutions, favoring attacking options over fresh legs. Instead, his pair of 69th minute changes– Wil Trapp and Brek Shea– seemed more concerned with preventing a Nashville win on a counterattack against the run of play than finding a game winner.
Indeed, it was Nashville with the first quality chance after Alonso’s changes, with Shea conceding a corner that led to a well-placed Mukhtar crossf finding the head of Walker Zimmerman, only to see the US international’s effort well-saved by a lunging Robles.
Neither team was done working.
In the 83rd minute, a foul on Robbie Robinson at the top of the box by Walker Zimmerman produced the best set piece opportunity Inter Miami would have all night, but after a lengthy discussion over who would take the kick, Robinson’s effort missed the target just left.
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) September 7, 2020
Nashville would respond with a great chance of its own early in stoppage time.
A blast from distance was deflected out to the feet of Anibal Godoy. The Panamanian international, who had beaten the Herons one week prior with a golazo at Nissan Stadium, nearly replicated the feat, only to have a laser from thirty yards saved by Robles. It was the final of Nashville’s 4 shots on target on the evening, and by far their best chance in the second half.
It would also be the last quality chance for either side in the evening, as a very even, often exciting game missed the game it very much deserved.