Inter Miami CF

Cincinnati, Ohio –  Phil Neville gets his ninth win of the season as Inter Miami beat FC Cincinnati 1-0.

The sign of a good team is being able to play unattractive soccer and win. Miami’s three points against Cincinnati could indicate that the tide is changing under the Englishman.

Saturday night’s win wasn’t pretty.

Inter Miami did not have a single shot on target until the 90th minute. For a team looking to control the tempo, break the lines, and create multiple chances, the performance was below their standard:

However, thanks to a last-minute Brek Shea winner the Herons have flown back to South Florida with three points.

Here’s how they did it.

Game Recap

Inter Miami came into the match against Cincinnati looking to keep the momentum going after their clean sheet against Orlando. In that game, though the Herons struggled offensively, Nick Marsman and the backline did just enough to the Lions from scoring:

The game vs. Cincinnati was no different.

In what was a must-win match-up, Miami struggled heavily. With Rodolfo Pizarro with the Mexican national team, and Kieran Gibbs out due to injury, Neville was forced to change up his starting eleven.

Brek Shea started at left wing-back and Indiana Vassilev got his second start of the season at right-winger. Kelvin Leerdam got the nod at right wing-back as Lewis Morgan was shifted over to the left wing.

FC Cincinnati has a number of attacking players who are adept at playing one-touch football, which makes it difficult for opposition defenders to track. Defensively, Cincinnati has players like Nick Hagglund who are excellent at aerial challenges.

To counteract that, Neville’s tactical plan for the game was to play quick, direct, and through the wings. That way, the open space behind Cincinnati’s wing-backs, Alvaro Barreal and Isaac Atanga, was free for Miami to attack.

Several of Inter Miami’s off-target shots came this way. Take this sequence in the 24th minute:

As the match went on, moments like this were few and far between, unfortunately.

Late Match Winner

It wasn’t until the 90th minute that the “heart attack Herons” got the job done.

Nico Figal played a gorgeous ball into Brek Shea who went on to, well, do Brek Shea things:

Taken down with a brilliant first touch, the swashbuckling 31-year-old looked as cool as a cucumber as he smashed it what would be the game-winner for Miami.

After the match, though the Herons got the win, Neville was highly critical of their performance:

The fact that Miami was able to play poorly, but still pull out a result is a good sign for the team going forward. It shows that they never give up nor stop fighting.

Compared to where they mentally were in mid-May, Neville has done a wonderful job at changing the club’s mentality.

Neville’s Team?

When Phil Neville was first hired by Inter Miami, there was immediate skepticism – rightfully so. Being a close friend of Beckham and having a skinny managerial resume raised some eyes around the MLS soccer landscape.

With two and half months of the season left, it’s safe to say that Inter Miami have come into their own under Neville.

It’s a complete 180° to what happened last year.

The 2020 season under Diego Alonso was disappointing, but there were positives to take away from it. Though Uruguayan got the best out of Pizarro and Morgan, Miami was fragile at the back and anemic offensively. Alonso failed to settle on any real tactical set-up which ultimately was his downfall:

Lost locker rooms, lack of tactical nous, and an overreliance on parking the bus led to his sacking.

Neville, on the other hand, has shown his willingness to adapt. He’s not afraid of benching Designated Players if they’re underperforming and has switched to a formation that gets the most out of the roster.

While his appointment may have been unexpected, the Englishman has shown that he’s able to lead a team.

Playoff Picture

Lastly, at the time of writing, Inter Miami is only four points out of a spot in the MLS Playoffs:

Their upcoming matches against the Columbus Crew, Toronto FC, and the New York Red Bulls will make or break their chances.

All three of Miami’s next opponents have gone through a rough period. The Crew, who are a point above the Herons, just lost to Orlando City. Toronto has been struggling all season and the Red Bulls lost three of their last four matches.

The opportunities are there for Miami’s taking. Their recent run of form suggests that they are certainly capable of picking up points.

However, MLS is an unforgiving league. Nothing will come easy for Miami. But, with their next game at Drive Pink Stadium, there is a great possibility of the Herons sneaking into eighth place this weekend.

Photo credit | Inter Miami CF

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Alex Windley
Alex is a soccer enthusiast with an unhealthy obsession with tattoos. Born and raised in Miami, she spends her time waxing poetic over Jordan Rakei, finding different tea combinations, and planning her next road trip.

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