As the early-season losses piled up, one after another, a familiar narrative kept rising to the surface for Inter Miami CF.
Not enough offense, not enough clutch plays at crunch time and not enough opportunities to close out games in the highly competitive MLS.
But opponents didn’t see it that way. In fact, after a 1-0 road loss to the Houston Dynamo on April 22, a defeat that pushed Inter Miami to 2-6-0 on the season, the victors were impressed.
“Gutsy win. It was an interesting win,” Dynamo coach Ben Olsen said after the victory. “It was very cagey at times. [Inter Miami is] much improved. They had the two-week bye week.”
Olsen must have been onto something, because Inter Miami bounced back on Saturday, authoring a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew to snap a six-game losing streak. Drake Callender made seven saves for Miami, and for a change, the vibes were positive after a weekend match that improved Inter’s record to 3-6-0 with 9 points.
“We’re very pleased. We needed to win a game,” Miami coach Phil Neville said after the victory. “We had a team today that was committed.”
And it might just be what Miami needs to turn the corner. After all, it wasn’t a small feat. The Crew (4-4-2, 14 points) saw its undefeated home record blemished for the first time.
The win also reassured Neville that the club is working toward the right ends. Even in losses, like the one in Houston, he was focusing on aspects of the game to build on, rather than criticize.
“We’re playing good football, apart from the Dallas game. We’re playing a good style and creating chances,” he said in Houston, referring to a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas on April 8. “None of our forwards can come into my office and say we aren’t creating chances. We create chances. We deserve to win games. … We can’t make excuses. We’ve got to stick it in the back of the net. We’ve got to keep going and believing in what we’re doing.”
A deeper dive into the metrics supports Neville’s stance. Against Houston, Miami generated more shots (20), more shots on target (5), and had a higher expected goals rating (xG) of 1.63 as opposed to the Dynamo’s .63.
A week later, some of those statistics turned into credible results. Against Columbus, Miami scored for the first time in four games and dodged what would have been a league record, had it lost 1-0 for the fourth consecutive time.
“I have no doubt that the tide has turned for us,” said Neville, who admitted to some structural changes in his lineup. “We now have a group that is fighting and showing the spirit that they showed last season.”
Inter indeed changed its formation in April. Neville opted to play with one striker instead of two, which is the strategy he opened the season with.
“This team never gives up,” he said after the win in Columbus. “I had no doubt that we were going to win this game.”
Where it goes from here, however, could be a different story. A playoff team just last season, Miami now shares last place with three other MLS clubs.
But there is time to bounce back. And on May 6, Inter will continue its climb, when it takes on Atlanta United FC.