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Matchday Preview: Inter Miami

The new-look Miami project comes to town with the Red Bulls desperate for a home win.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Inter Miami CF
Will Gonzalo Higuain make his last appearance in New York on Saturday night?
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Do you ever wonder about the guy writing these previews? Do you ruminate over the man on the other side of the screen, who diligently sits down every week and records which players he deems the most attractive? Does the fact that there is a whole life, a human experience behind these words pique your interest? I hope not. That would be weird.

Tactics Board

The Red Bulls home streak continues against the English national team reunion party that is Inter Miami, an eagerly anticipated addition to MLS that has largely struggled since its arrival. David Beckham’s business venture has not gone to plan at all, with legal controversy off the pitch coinciding with disappointing results on it. But a reset in 2022 has lead to massive improvement for the club, with the organization acknowledging the mistakes made in its founding and working to amend them. The result? 6th place in the Eastern Conference, and a team that is legitimately contending for a playoff place.

Miami’s biggest problems in their two debut years were defensive, they were the laughingstock of the league conceding 1.52 and 1.56 goals per game in 2020 and 2021 respectively. A top-heavy roster combined with an audacious 3-5-2 setup left far too many holes in the defense, and frequently kept them out of games even when the attack did pan out. Head coach Phil Neville saw this and decided to switch to the reputable 4-2-3-1, still maintaining his direct style, but leaving more players behind the ball to defend. Neville has toned down on the pressing that was often ineffective and cost Miami in the past, reverting to more average attempted pressure counts and raising the successful pressure percentage as a result. All of these things should combine for an improved defense, but funnily enough it’s actually gotten worse, with Miami’s current goals allowed per game standing at 1.61, even worse than 2020 and 2021. While it would be funny to just conclude with that, those who believe in Expected Goals will note that their Expected Goals allowed per 90 is a more respectable 1.44. Miami are slowly getting better at defending, but they are nowhere near the finished product. They aren’t getting blown out as often as seasons past, but clean sheets have still been a struggle.

Offensively Miami have been a mixed bag, for most of the season they struggled to score and were carried by young striker Eduardo Campana’s ridiculous form. Their 1.31 goals scored per game over the course of the year is one of the lower totals in the league; but in recent weeks they’ve picked up steam, averaging 2.4 goals per game in their last 5, and 1.7 in their last 10. The arrival of former MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo has certainly helped, with his playmaking ability creating more chances for his fellow attackers to score, but the main help has simply been the team gelling together at precisely the right time. Good performances compound upon another, and Miami’s train is picking up speed as they’re unbeaten in their last 5.

From the Red Bulls’ perspective, it’s a simple question of which version of New York shows up on Saturday. The team has put in some spectacular performances on their day in 2022, and have looked completely unrecognizable on other days. The young squad has suffered greatly from the poor streak that’s plagued them throughout the summer, but they will also know that a late season push will be enough to keep them in playoff contention. Ironically, it was a 4-0 win against Miami that sparked New York’s late run last season, so fans will hope history can repeat itself in Harrison. Miami are definitely vulnerable defensively, and while the side that beat New York 2-0 earlier this year shouldn’t be underestimated, if the Red Bulls can turn the attack on this week, then they should have a good time against a team they’ve outscored 5-2 in their last 3 meetings.

Squad Superlatives

Coach’s kid - Harvey Neville

To be fair he’s a solid contributor for Inter Miami II, but getting promoted to the first team under your father’s tutelage is always going to get made fun of.

Owner’s kid - Romeo Beckham

The kid’s already got a grainy highlight reel online, if only I could place that last name…

Best Dressed - DeAndre Yedlin

The tatted right back is quite the character off the pitch, a fashion enthusiast whose style matches his flair on the pitch.

Check out this great piece from ESPN for more on Yedlin’s journey back to MLS.

Most likely to steal your girl - Leonardo Campana

Those eyes…

Predicted Lineups

New York Red Bulls (4-2-3-1): Coronel, Tolkin, S. Nealis, Long, Duncan, Amaya, Yearwood, Luquinhas, Casseres, Harper, Klimala

Inter Miami (4-2-3-1): Callender, McVey, Sailor, Lowe, Yedlin, Gregore, Mota, Duke, Pozuelo, Lassiter, Higuain

Players to Watch

Omir Fernandez

You look away for two matchweeks and Bronx-born wingers go and disappear again. Tough world.

Despite a hot start to the season, his lack of contribution on the scoresheet (no goal contributions in his last 11 appearances) saw his minutes wane as the season went on. Left off the matchday squad entirely for the team’s last two games, with no reported injury, and without a 60 minute appearance since Austin in July, it’s been rough for Fernandez. He might be a player that won’t be watched at all on Saturday, but even if he doesn’t play he’ll be a storyline to watch for the rest of the year.

Bryce Duke

Sometimes in sports there’s players that just catch the eye. They might not be the most talented, but they’ve got some spirit or hunger that you just can’t take your eye off. A recent trend online has dubbed this phenomenon as “having that dog in him”, and if there’s one guy that has that dog, it’s Bryce Duke.

Statistically, Duke has been unimpressive. Only one goal and three assists in 12 starts for the LAFC castaway isn’t going to impress anyone, but watching his play you realize that he’s got some X factor. An extremely direct player, his offensive fervor boosts Miami whenever he’s on the pitch, with his unrelenting desire to get up the pitch and ability to pick out a pass making him a valuable option. It doesn’t always come off for him, but he’ll badger opponents all match and be a pest for defenders. He’s appeared in most of Miami’s matches this year, so expect to see him in some capacity against the Red Bulls, because if there’s one man that can create something out of nothing on the Miami roster, it’s Duke.

Take a look at this analysis from sibling site Stars and Stripes FC for a more in depth look at Duke. Or don’t. It’s fine, I guess.

Final Prediction

With the home crowd (hopefully) amped up from 90s Night at Red Bull Arena, lightning should strike twice as the Red Bulls once again find their way against Miami. Give me a 2-1 win for New York, with a Bryce Duke stunner giving the fans a good scare.