Inter Miami went nearly two and a half months between wins.
After spoiling the party for FC Cincinnati when they opened TQL Stadium on May 16, Miami waited until their eighth match for their next win, which included six losses. They dropped to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings during that time.
After a hard-fought draw against the reigning Supporters’ Shield winners Philadelphia Union and then a comeback 2-1 win over CF Montréal, Miami have alleviated a bit of the negative vibes that come with a six-game losing streak. They still have plenty of maneuvering to do, but they had to start somewhere.
“There is an element of relief throughout the whole club,” head coach Phil Neville admitted when speaking with media on Monday. “You want to reverse the string of defeats”
Will it be another false start – just a positive blip in an otherwise forgettable season – or something more meaningful?
Miami didn’t start the season on fire, but eight points from their first six games was perhaps more than most expected, including a credible 2-1 win against the Union. The low point of their six-game losing streak over the summer was a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the New England Revolution.
“The game against New England was terrible, but our reaction shows our mentality,” defender Kelvin Leerdam said. “It’s about not giving up, sometimes it’s nice when you earn it the hard way. We’re heading in the right direction. … We’re climbing up slowly, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
It comes at a good time, just before they travel to face in-state rival Orlando City SC on Wednesday at Exploria Stadium (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).
“The feeling and where we are at the moment, the last two games have been a breath of fresh air around the place given what we had been through over the last five weeks,” Neville said. “We’re going into the game against Orlando in really good shape.”
The schedule isn’t getting any easier, with matches against Nashville SC and New York City FC following their test against Orlando. After already facing the Revs, Union and CF Montréal in recent weeks, they’ll have played six of the seven teams above the playoff line in the East in less than a month.
They should be nearing full-strength against Orlando, though defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez will miss the match with a suspension. Ryan Shawcross is dealing with back spasms, but Neville is optimistic that he’ll be able to start. Summer additions Kieran Gibbs and Nick Marsman continue to get a run in the team, while Rodolfo Pizarro is back from international duty with Mexico.
“We want to enjoy this one,” Neville said. “It’s a local derby, the atmosphere in that stadium will be really electric. If you’re a footballer, these are the games you want to play in.”
Inter Miami career “behind” Matias Pellegrini as he departs on loan
As had long been expected this summer, winger Matias Pellegrini officially departed Inter Miami on Monday, heading out on loan to Estudiantes in Argentina. Though the club made no mention of a purchase option in the deal, Pellegrini appears to have played his last game for the club.
“Unfortunately, I think his Inter Miami career is behind him,” Neville said. “We wish him all the best, he’s a fantastic young boy. We will miss him."
Pellegrini, 21, made 19 appearances for Miami in 2020, adding a goal and four assists.
He was not an active member of the roster in 2021, having been a cap casualty. An investigation into the club's acquisition of Blaise Matuidi ruled the Frenchman should have been a Designated Player, leaving Miami with four players for three slots. Pellegrini's contract made him ineligible to be added to the roster as a U-22 Initiative signing while Mautidi, Gonzalo Higuain and Pizarro were beyond the threshold to be bought down from their DP classification.
“We all feel so sorry for him, he probably doesn’t quite understand what’s happening and why he had to leave," Neville said. "Through no fault of his own. That's why we feel so sorry for him. All he wanted to do was pull on the shirt of Inter Miami. Even until the last day we were trying to find ways he could play for us, but ultimately there was no way. There was no way the league would let us, any way we wanted to. The boy wanted to rip up his contract to start again and play for this football club, give everything to play for this football club. That was his commitment to us.”