After Inter Miami's season came to an end on Friday night with an emphatic defeat to Nashville SC, defender A.J. DeLaGarza reflected on an expansion campaign in which he said there had been little to savor on the field.
Miami finished in 10th place in the Eastern Conference to clinch the final spot in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs but went down 3-0 to fellow expansion team Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium. Asked if he had a message for the fans following the defeat, DeLaGarza was blunt in his assessment.
"I think one of the reasons I chose to come to Miami was because of the fan base for one," he said. "There was a fan base before there was a player, so you can see them in the stands, their passion, and they waited so long to have a team here and I think we can say that we disappointed them this season. It just wasn't good enough from the first game to the last game.
"You can't make any excuses for what's been happening here but thank them for their support and hopefully they stick with us and understand 2020 wasn't a normal year and hopefully they’ll be out there next year to support us at the stadium."
Highlights: Nashville SC 3, Inter Miami CF 0
Miami began the year with five successive defeats, though split over five months due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused the league to shut down in early March before resuming in July at the MLS is Back Tournament. The latest blow came ahead of Friday night's game when Gonzalo and Federico Higuain as well as key defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez were all ruled out. And, while stressing that he did not want to make any excuses, DeLaGarza explained that those issues were particularly challenging for a completely new team.
"The team was made very very late in 2019 into early 2020, then we got guys coming in throughout the entire season, it makes it difficult to gel and to bond," he said. "And then you throw in COVID and I think the first two games you saw a team that was feeling kind of confident in what we were doing and then COVID hit and then we're all separated for a couple months, all doing our own things and just chatting on Zoom meetings, which you don't really get to know a teammate that well, especially on the field. Obviously, we're not training, day in and day out with them. That's no excuse because Nashville is an expansion team and had to go through the same stuff as us.
"I told somebody the other day you could write a book of all the, all the things that have happened to this team individually collectively on the field off the field. And it could be a long, long book. Unfortunately, it ends tonight."
While their expansion season is now over, DeLaGarza said he retains full faith that year two will see a turnaround in fortunes.
"Unfortunately, we have to go on an offseason like that feeling like that and no matter who’s here next year, I'm confident that this team and the people who are running it are doing the right thing so we got to keep our head up and everybody move forward," he said.