LOS ANGELES (March 1, 2020) —
The first ever match for David Beckham’s franchise was full of anticipation. Excitement came from the ownership group, fans, players and the media. Few teams have begun existence in the spotlight as much as Inter Miami has.
Though the club failed to bring home any points from the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday afternoon, it was highly pleased and proud with the effort that the players gave against one of the best teams in Major League Soccer.
Bob Bradley made just two changes in his LAFC lineup after Thursday’s Concacaf Champions League victory over Club León, putting in Jordan Harvey at left back and Francisco Ginella in midfield.
Inter Miami lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. In the opening minutes, the Rosanegro struggled, unable to complete passes against LAFC’s high pressure, resulting in several turnovers. Inter Miami defenders were also out of position. several times as they tried to contain the highly charged LAFC front line of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Brian Rodriguez. Fortunately, Inter Miami’s newly-appointed captain Luis Robles, was ready for the onslaught and demonstrated leadership in the early minutes of the match. He made an impressive save in the fifth minute, diving to his left and getting a hand on a powerful header from Diego Rossi. Robles turned in a strong game and kept Inter Miami within a strike of equalizing. In total, Robles made eight saves, including an equally spectacular outstretched dive to stop a Rossi shot in the 30th. Indeed, Robles kept Miami in the game.
“The weeks that we’ve been together, that chemistry aspect isn’t always there,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “I think the more we train together, the more we’re able to be on the field together, you’ll strengthen those ties.”
Having survived the opening part of the first half, Miami looked more confident as the half wore on. The club started to win back some possession, and even created a few decent chances that required LAFC keeper Kenneth Vermeer to take action. A strike from Matías Pellegrini in the 37th minute was punched out by Vermeer and a diagonal shot from Ben Sweat also in the 37th minute that was heading towards the corner of the net was cleared away by the LAFC defense.
However, Miami was undone in the 44th minute. Just as it looked the half would end deadlocked at 0-0, Carlos Vela, who broke the MLS record for most goals scored in a season last season with 34, created his own opportunity and opened his 2020 account. It was a perfect present for his 31st birthday. Vela dribbled diagonally through a number of defenders, then lobbed the ball a over retreating Robles to give the Black-and-Gold a 1-0 advantage.
Asked about the goal, Wil Trapp said that it was unfortunate. “For us, the 10 minutes right before the goal were probably the best minutes we had.”
In the second half, Miami came out playing similarly to the end of the first half. The team even had some moments when it dictated the tempo and threatened LAFC’s back line. The team’s weakness in the final third however was what limited its effectiveness. Pizarro came within centimetres of equalizing in minute 54 when he slid to try to poke the ball into the corner after receiving a nice cross from midfielder Lewis Morgan.
Inter Miami brought on former LAFC midfielder Lee Nguyen in the 68th minute for Victor Ulloa, followed by a 79th minute double change. Juan Agudelo and Christian Makoun came on for Morgan and Mari Pellegrini. These substitution of players who were playing on the wing served to narrow the team’s shape.
A few late chances came Inter Miami’s way, including a 97th minute shot from Nguyen. The midfielder collected possession from a Román Torres pass and curled a left-footed shot from the top of the box that was saved by the keeper. The final shot tally was quite even, with LAFC having nine shots on target compared to Inter Miami’s seven.
The first match in the history of the Club thus ended in defeat, but with much promise.
“We had a great game,” said Inter Miami head coach Diego Alonso in Spanish. “They are very good but we showed a lot of heart and fought hard. We had a lot of clear chances to take the lead and then to tie when we were down 1-0. That’s what I take away.“
“We have to get better from a soccer standpoint, but surely we will win a lot of games with the heart and intensity that the team plays with.”
One of the most impressive aspects of the trip to Los Angeles was the support Internacional saw from its supporters. Members of the team’s official supporters’ groups – Southern Legion, Vice City 1896 and The Siege – made the cross-country trip to Los Angeles to support the team for the historic occasion and their presence was appreciated and acknowledged by the players.
Head coach Diego Alonso said that “at the club they really treat me like someone in the family and the fans are the same. Not just ours, but the league’s fans. It has been an incredible welcome and we are very proud to belong and compete in the MLS,” he said. “Our fans have really been amazing. I want to make a special mention to them. The support we have had has been tremendous in each of the days that have passed before the start of the league and today they have been fantastic. We dedicate our effort and our heart to them, everything we do in the league is going to be dedicated to them.”
Of course, it was disappointing to lose, but Miami held its own against one of the favourites to win MLS Cup this year. Additionally, Los Angeles came into the game having already played a difficult home and away round in the Concacaf Champions League, having rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-0 in the return to defeat Mexican side León.
Here is a recap of the match: