After a pair of tough defeats in their first two MLS matches, Inter Miami CF now have a golden opportunity to hit the reset button when they take on Orlando City SC in the first match of the MLS is Back Tournament on July 8 (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada).
A victory over Orlando would afford Miami a necessary three points, but it would also give them a much-coveted first victory in what has the makings of a long-term in-state rivalry. It's all new at this point, but defender Nicolas Figal told reporters on a Friday conference call that his team is looking at a victory in the Orlando match as an ideal first step as they restart the season.
“It’s very important to start on the right foot,” Figal said. “We know we’re going up against a tough rival that is familiar with the conditions and the field. But we’ll do everything we can on our part to come away with the win in our first game.
“We’ve never played against this rival. It’s all new for us,” he continued. “We have an expectation of starting off the first game with a win to hope to have a good tournament and win the cup. It’s always nice to have a rivalry and in this case Orlando [City]. If at some point in history it becomes a Clasico, we welcome it. But we’re focused on having a good game and trying to win the first one, taking the three points and starting in the best way possible.”
There won't be in any fans in attendance, but Miami midfielder Wil Trapp said the players know that their fans will be keeping close tabs on the match, and that delivering them a first win is still at the forefront of their minds.
“There are no fans in the stadium, but we know that our fans are watching us on TV,” Trapp said. “We know that they care immensely about this game in particular, and even more so there's a trophy at stake.”
Trapp said there have been some key takeaways from Miami's first two games in March and he shared a list of key areas of improvement: being clinical in front of goal, calming the game down, picking the moments to press and staying disciplined by avoiding costly red cards. He also had a scouting report on Orlando.
“I think they're a team that with the ball is fairly direct,” Trapp said. “At first sight for the most part, it’s more of a direct style of play when they get pressed so it would be a little against their nature I think to try to just dominate possession based on what we've seen. But they've also had three or four months to change maybe their identity since the games they’ve played. For us, we’re always going to try to be on the ball.”
Leading up the tournament, Miami have been focused on getting settled in at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando and getting acclimated to their new surroundings. A few players hit the golf course on Thursday (with forward Jerome Kiesewetter notably showcasing some questionable form on his swing) and Figal said the team used the day to "clear their heads".
“Personally, me and the guys have talked a lot about the organization of this tournament and the amenities of the hotel,” Figal said. “We’ve had time to play games and we went to play golf. It’s a tournament that’s well organized and we feel very safe and we’re really eager to start with the first game.”
While they may have enjoyed some downtime on Thursday, Trapp was confident that no team will be better prepared than Miami come that first game.
“I think the one strength as a group that we can draw upon for sure is that every team is in the same boat,” Trapp said. “It's all about the preparation work that you did before you got here, to be honest, and I know that we've done a massive amount of work to be prepared. Ultimately when the game comes, you have to be ready and there's no excuses for any of the things going on outside of the field when the lights turn on.”