Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — After starting fast and furious in Atlanta over the weekend, Inter Miami came out of the gates sleepy and slow and stayed that way throughout proceedings on a perfect September night for soccer in Fort Lauderdale.
The result was a 4-1 thumping of Inter Miami by a New York Red Bulls side that entered Wednesday night’s contest having only scored twice in their last four games. They doubled that number Wednesday, handing Inter Miami their first home loss in the process.
“This is the worst game we’ve had. They were better than us. We gave them too many opportunities and they took advantage of that and our mistakes,” Inter Miami manager Diego Alonso told the media following the game.
Plenty went wrong for Inter Miami, beginning with the club’s lethargic start.
Playing for the first time without talismanic midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro in the starting lineup, Inter Miami struggled from the opening whistle to retain the ball in the middle of the pitch. The result was plenty of giveaways — and early chances — for New York Red Bulls.
The first early Red Bulls chance came off a bad giveaway by Mattias Pellegrini, starting for the first time in four weeks. Jared Stroud won the ball and quickly played Mathias Jørgensen through on Robles. Pressured a bit by Nicolás Figal, the Danish striker couldn’t quite fully turn on the ball, pinging his chance high and off the crossbar in only the game’s 10th minute.
The woodwork only briefly delayed the inevitable.
In the 12th minute, with the Red Bulls once again in possession after an Inter Miami giveaway, Blaise Matuidi was whistled for a penalty following a takedown of Stroud in the 12th minute. Stroud certainly made a meal of the play, and on second view it appeared to be a relatively soft penalty call from referee Alex Chilowicz.
Still, it was a clumsy play by a player with Matuidi’s experience, who should have peeled off when he saw Stroud’s back facing away from goal, seemingly content to leave the Inter Miami eighteen with the ball.
Penalty drawn by Jared Stroud leads to Mandela Egbo's first @MLS goal!
— 🦉New York Red Bulls🦉 (@NewYorkRedBulls) September 24, 2020
Mandela Egbo took the ensuing penalty for Red Bulls, and left no doubt, sending Robles the other way and slotting home cooly to the right for his first MLS goal.
Momentum for Red Bulls after the PK
The first 20 minutes set the tone for the entire evening. Inter Miami never seemed comfortable against the Red Bulls patented high press, producing a game where it very much felt like the Fort Lauderdale side spent the evening climbing uphill.
“We didn’t start the game right. We didn’t respect our opponent,” Inter Miami captain Luis Robles told the media after the game. “Anytime you come out thinking you’re so good you can just play a team off the park, you can be in for a long night. From the moment they came out and high-pressed us, we were reacting. We did not put the game on our terms and when you do that, it’s no surprise you end up losing.”
The goal, at least momentarily, woke Inter Miami up.
First, Victor Ulloa won a free kick down the right flank in the 22nd minute, resulting in an excellent chance on the ensuing set piece for Leandro Martín González Pírez, only to see the All-Star defenders header miss just high and left.
Then, in the 29th minute, Mattias Pellegrini displayed some crafty footwork and passing to play Lewis Morgan through. Unfortunately for the Herons, Morgan was corralled to his right by Aaron Long, forcing him to miss a late-running Agudelo in space and instead bury a cross into the side of David Jensen’s goal.
Inter Miami finds some life
Inter Miami’s hard work paid off with an equalizer in the 39th minute.
A lofted ball over the top towards Lewis Morgan was cut off by Long, who elected to hit it one time instead of using the space he had to take a touch. Long’s botched clearance found its way to Pellegrini, whose through ball took a deflection. Agudelo did a great job rerouting his run and reached the ball before Jensen, who was caught in between coming out and staying home.
Agudelo’s shot beat the big Dane and leveled the game at one. The 27-year-old Agudelo’s play was a small bright spot on a grim evening, his goal the latest display of quality form from a player who has been outstanding since the MLS is Back Tournament, earning his manager’s trust.
Inter Miami quickly lost any momentum they had gained from the Agudelo goal in the second half, as it was all Red Bulls after the break, beginning with the go-ahead and ultimately game-winning goal in the 49th minute.
Caught between dribbling out of the back end and passing past New York’s high press, Ben Sweat committed the cardinal sin of a giveaway that played the opponent immediately on towards goal. Matuidi came back to try and recover, but couldn’t corral the ball, which ultimately found its way through to Omir Fernandez, who played a slick ball to Brian White for a cool finish. The goal gave Red Bulls a new lead — and a much-needed energy boost — within the first five minutes of the second half.
PRESS 👏 PRESS 👏 PRESS
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 24, 2020
Robles said the start of the second half was nearly as disappointing as the beginning of the second half.
“We talked about how we started the game. Let’s talk about how we started the second half. We gave up a goal in three minutes,” Robles said. “We talked at halftime about how they were going to continue to press us and we need to be quick and play off lines. It wasn’t just on the goal. It was off their kickoff. They kicked the ball down to us and we played it down and tried to knock it around and they put pressure on us and we coughed it up.
“A couple minutes later, we gave up the goal. The third goal, the fourth goal, they weren’t deflating. That’s not as concerning to me because we were chasing the game and we became more aggressive so we knew we’d be susceptible to counters.”
Inter Miami slips up
However, before Inter Miami conceded goals three and four, they almost answered Red Bulls’ second goal immediately.
A good ball from Sweat found Brek Shea streaking down the left flank. Shea cut inside and centered for Agudelo, only to see his shot deflect off Dru Yearwood. The deflection fell to Morgan, but the young winger clipped the rebound attempt wide left. Nevertheless, it was a good response from the hosts, and when Rodolfo Pizarro entered the game minutes later, it was evident that Inter Miami wasn’t going to drop their first match at home without a fight.
The Herons tested the Red Bulls twice in Pizarro’s first 10 minutes on the pitch. First, in the 67th minute, Matuidi won the ball back down the left flank, playing a quick ball to substitute Robbie Robinson, who found Pizarro trailing. Pizarro danced around one Red Bull in pursuit and then fired at Jensen, who made a simple save. Minutes later, another slick sequence of passes saw the ball fall to the feet of Pizarro again, only to see the Mexican international’s left footed, low effort saved well by Jensen. These chances were ample evidence of how much more dynamic La Rosa Negra are with Pizarro in the fold, and served notice to New York that collecting all three points wasn’t going to be easy.
Last Words on Inter Miami vs. Red Bulls
By night’s end, Inter Miami held edge in multiple statistical categories, including shots (14 to 10), final third touches (2-1 ratio), passing accuracy (74%-53%)and possession (65-35). Even factoring in the Red Bulls happiness conceding possession in their high press, those are significant advantages.
In the end, though, the stat that matters most is goals and in the 85th minute, Ben Mines put the game to bed with a putback off a lethal Red Bulls counter. With Inter Miami pressuring high to try to win the ball and find an equalizer, New York found a transition three on two when they won the ball, with Kyle Duncan playing through Tom Barlow.
Robles saved Barlow’s initial effort, but the rebound fell to a lurking Mines, who finished calmly to put New York up 3-1 and end any chance of an Inter Miami comeback. When Red Bulls added a fourth with Danny Royer’s goal in the 90th minute, the visitors were simply adding insult to injury on what proved to be a dire night for Inter Miami.