Fort Lauderdale, FL. — New York City Football Club scored three first half goals , including two by Alexandru Mitriță, and held on to win a wild 3-2 game at Inter Miami Stadium Saturday night. The match extended the losing streak, as Inter Miami CF drop their third game in a row and widened the points gap between Inter Miami and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Inter Miami drop third in a row in wild one to NYCFC
In Inter Miami’s last match at home, a 4-1 defeat to New York Red Bulls, should have taught the expansion club a valuable lesson. “Look at the way we started each half,” Inter Miami captain Luis Robles told the media after that game. “We didn’t come out with the right mentality, the right urgency, the right level of respect for our opponent. They punished us for it.”
Playing the other MLS club from New York City Saturday night, Inter Miami didn’t appear to learn their lesson. Instead, Inter Miami continued their trend of poor starts Saturday night.
NYCFC scored in the game’s opening four minutes, when a poor Inter Miami clearance off a NYCFC corner kick allowed the Pigeons to reclaim the ball in the final third. From there, Alexander Ring played a crisp ball to Alexandru Mitriță, who somehow found himself wide open at the left post. Mitriță buried a clinical finish past Robles to give New York City FC a 1-0 lead.
Despite falling behind for in the first 20 minutes for the third consecutive game, Diego Alonso pushed back at the idea that Inter Miami started slowly Saturday night.
“I don’t think we started slow,” Alonso said. “I thought we started strong. I think we were playing well when we conceded the goal. That’s why it’s difficult to explain. It was a corner kick they scored off of and we should have defended it better. We made an individual mistake at the post and we have to accept it and do better, but it’s difficult to take in because we came out strong and were dominating the game.”
To Inter Miami’s credit, they did seize the initiative after the goal and had two excellent chances to respond nearly immediately.
The first came when Gonzalo Higuaín was played a good centering ball by Lewis Morgan, only to miss just to the right with Sean Johnson closing. Shortly thereafter, the Herons earned a corner and Wil Trapp fired a one-timer on frame from the top of the eighteen, only to see it saved by Johnson.
The Pigeons nearly added a second in the 10th minute, after an Inter Miami giveaway in midfield allowed Alexander Ring to find space down the left on a feed from Jesús Medina. Ring cut inside and took a touch but was denied well at close range by Luis Robles, keeping the game from getting out of hand early for the Herons.
Inter Miami kept pressing, and would level the game in the 27th minute.
The Herons attacked well up the left flank, with Ben Sweat finding Blaise Matuidi in traffic in zone fourteen. Matuidi played a quick ball on the floor to a secondary run by Victor Ulloa, who clipped a quick pass to Morgan, who blasted a strong right-footed finish past Johnson.
Inter Miami is caught poorly positioned and exposed on the break, but Mitrita scores only via a wicked deflection that wrong-footed Robles.
#InterMiamiCF back on level terms!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 4, 2020
Inter Miami have struggled this year at handling success, too frequently allowing goals immediately or quickly after grabbing one of their own. That almost happened again Saturday night, but Luis Robles came up big with a diving right arm save off a terrific Keaton Parks shot in the 30th minute to keep the game level.
Unfortunately for the Herons, Robles save offered only a temporary reprieve.
The Pigeons quickly opened the Inter Miami defense up again in the 35th minute, with Anton Timmerholm making use of acres of space in the final third to take his time, pick his spot and crush a howitzer in the far left corner past a diving Robles.
Lewis Morgan, perhaps the brightest young star of Inter Miami’s expansion season, would answer quickly before halftime. This time, it was Higuaín doing some yeoman’s work in hold-up play before laying off perfectly for the Scottsman, who hammered a rocket from the top of the eighteen into the upper right corner, tying the game at 2 goals apiece.
Inter Miami spent a great deal of money bringing in Matias Pellegrini and Julian Carranza ahead of the club’s inaugural campaign. The idea was to build a team similar to the one Paul McDonough helped build in Atlanta– full of fast, young, highly technical South American talent. Lewis Morgan, the cheapest of the young Inter Miami signings, was a bit of an afterthought, even if he came from Celtic, a Scottish club with a fine reputation.
Pellegrini has disappointed and Carranza has battled injuries, but Morgan has been a revelation. The 24-year-old winger now leads Inter Miami in goals on the season, with 4, and he’s been consistently dangerous in games even when he hasn’t scored, adding 4 assists. Given the fact Inter Miami have only scored 14 goals this season, that means Morgan’s been involved in over half of the Fort Lauderdale side’s goals, a terrific haul for a first year MLS player. Morgan was pleased to contribute, but disheartened by the result.
“It’s great to score two goals, but you don’t enjoy it much or think about it when you don’t get the result. I’d rather score no goals and get three points,” Morgan said after the match.
Sadly for Inter Miami fans, Morgan’s first half brace wasn’t enough to keep the game level at halftime.
Instead, NYCFC yanked the lead right back through Mitriță in the 43rd minute. On this goal, a miscommunication between DeLaGarza and Figal gave the Romanian far too much space, and he used it to hammer a shot goalward. The ball appeared to be headed straight for Robles, but took a nasty deflection that left the Inter Miami keeper helpless and flatfooted, giving NYCFC a 3-2 lead they would carry into halftime.
Inter Miami and Morgan nearly equalized several times in the second 45 minutes, including immediately after halftime.
After a quiet first half, Rodolfo Pizarro slalomed his way through the New York City FC defense and played an inch perfect pass to Morgan, who was behind the last defender. The Scottish winger took too heavy a first touch, though, and the ball trickled to a grateful Sean Johnson, who gobbled it up to preserve the visitor’s lead.
In the 51st minute, Higuaín should have opened his MLS account after making a strong run near post, where he was teed up beautifully by who else– Lewis Morgan. Instead, the big Argentine striker placed his header mystifyingly wide, keeping a grateful NYCFC in front. It was that kind of night for Higuaín, who frequently found good positions but couldn’t quite deliver the goods on a goal.
Gonzalo Higuain had two pretty awful misses tonight for Inter Miami.
1) It's actually kind of encouraging that he was in great spots. He'll get his goals.
2) He can't single-handedly fix what's going wrong with Miami, who are creating zero early, useful width. pic.twitter.com/ZZTSHlSRfS
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) October 4, 2020
Inter Miami kept fighting though, and nearly leveled proceedings again n the 66th minut. This time, after some terrific buildup play, a probing ball managed to find Morgan again in a prime scoring position. Morgan smashed an effort goalward and on target only to be denied glory by a diving Sebastien Ibeagha, who got a piece of the shot to preserve the NYCFC lead.
In the 85th minute, as a torrential downpour began, Higuaín found a fraction of space in the penalty area and sent a right footed slice goalward. The choppy ball across goal appeared headed for the far corner, but was tapped home before anyone could find out by a lunging Carranza, who entered the game as a late substitute. Higuaín’s shot, had it gone in, would have been onside, but Carranza’s goal was ruled off after VAR review, denying Inter Miami what would have been a deserved equalizer.
In stoppage time, Carranza would have one more chance at redemption.
Running onto another terrific Morgan pass, the Argentine forward’s left footed blast appeared to hit a NYCFC defender’s hand before being saved by Johnson. There would be no stoppage for review, however, and the game would end minutes later, leaving the Herons hard luck losers on a night they certainly played well enough to earn a point.
The defeat was the third in a row for Inter Miami, a discouraging setback for the club after a good run of form following the MLS Is Back Tournament that included a stretch of four wins in five games in early September. The Herons travel to New York for a second shot at the Red Bulls in the middle of the week, where they will try to get back on track and figure out what has been ailing the club defensively during this three game losing streak.
“We keep making mistakes that are costly,” Matuidi said following the match. “Tonight showed us there is hope and we can turn it around, but it is difficult to accept.”
Manager Diego Alonso agreed with his star midfielder that this result was harsh.
On the one hand, it’s difficult to understand and on the other hand, it’s easy to explain,” Alonso said after the game. “It’s difficult to understand because generally we have more shots, more of the ball, and more chances. We defend well for long periods and press well. But we make defensive mistakes and they are costly. I think the problem is still focus, concentration , and individual mistakes, and that’s easy to explain, but something we have to do better.”