They now have the No. 10 seed and will travel to face fellow expansion side Nashville SC on Nov. 20, with Nashville earning the No. 7 seed after getting eight more points during their inaugural MLS regular season (32).
Head coach Diego Alonso feels the pressure's off before their Play-In match after Sunday's do-or-die clash at Inter Miami CF Stadium that was hampered by Tropical Storm Eta descending on Florida.
"What we can expect in the playoffs is that we have nothing to lose," Alonso said in his postgame press conference. "We’ve come from behind with nothing to lose and a lot to gain and a lot of ambition. We like where we’re at. I’m happy to be coach of this team, and we prepare to make history. It won’t be easy, but I’ll repeat: with little to lose and a lot to gain, we aim to shoot for the maximum thinking that the most important thing for us is what comes next – the next game.
“They’re 90 minutes and in 90 minutes I think we’re capable of showing the best of ourselves and win against any team. We’ve faced the best teams of the conference and showed we’re competitive, so we have that calm and we’ll give our best effort next week.”
Highlights: Inter Miami CF 2, FC Cincinnati 1
Left back Mikey Ambrose, who scored a left-footed screamer in the 19th minute before Leandro Gonzalez Pirez added the eventual game-winner in the 23rd minute, called the conditions the worst he’s ever played in. But there was extra satisfaction, Alonso said, in giving the fans a euphoric moment in the club’s final home game of 2020.
“We knew the results were favorable and things were falling into place, but we had to wait for the final moments to celebrate,” Alonso said. “Luckily, we were able to do it and we celebrated with our fans … This win and this qualification is without a doubt dedicated to our fans.”
One challenge for Inter Miami will be how DP midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro is set to join Mexico for their upcoming international friendlies against South Korea (Nov. 14) and Japan (Nov. 17). Pizarro would have to quarantine upon his return, given the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued state, so they’re poised to be without his creative presence. Asked about Pizarro’s status, Alonso said they’ll see if they can make some arrangements, but he respects how there’s an obligation to join his country.
Exclusive: Inter Miami's Lewis Morgan
Nashville are also 1W-0L-1D in meetings with Miami this year, and they have a 4W-1L-5D record at Nissan Stadium. That tilts early scales toward Gary Smith’s squad, but Gonzalez Pirez knows anything can happen in a one-off game.
“Now that everything’s done and we’re in, we’re relieved and happy,” the center back said. “And now it’s a different season. There aren’t first, second or last place. It’s 90 minutes and we prepare to win it however we can and to get positive results.”
As for Alonso, he feels prior results are borderline irrelevant at this stage. As a No. 10-seed with game-changers like the ex-Juventus duo of midfielder Blaise Matuidi and forward Gonzalo Higuain, they could surprise some observers.
“A new tournament starts and has nothing to do with what happened in the previous 23 games or what happened before or in Orlando (at the MLS is Back Tournament),” Alonso said. “It’s totally different. And for us, particularly, this group loves to play do-or-die games. They [playoff games] are 90 minutes, different game. We’re on the road, but it’s totally different from the previous games that happened in the league. Beginning now, it has nothing to do with anything that’s already happened."