Infusion of local youth energizing Inter Miami heading into Nashville game Wednesday
Like a bunch of kids winning stuffed animals at a carnival shooting gallery, the resurgent and youth-infused Inter Miami squad has knocked off three of the top teams in the East the past few weeks after breaking out of a six-game losing skid.
In the process, Miami climbed from 14th place to sixth in the conference standings heading into another tough game Wednesday night on the road against third-place Nashville SC (8:30 p.m., Apple TV), which is riding a six-game unbeaten streak. Miami has won five in a row, counting the two U.S. Open Cup games.
The biggest win came last Saturday, 2-1 over first-place New England despite playing a man down the final 16 minutes. The standout player of that game was 19-year-old Little Havana native David Ruiz, who scored his first MLS goal, recorded his first assist and, much to his dismay, also got his first red card, which will keep him out of Wednesday’s game.
Ruiz, who will represent Honduras at the U20 World Cup in Argentina next week, is part of a pack of young local players who have made an impact after being promoted from the second team.
Forward Shanyder Borgelin, a Haitian American who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, scored in the season opener against Montreal. Benja Cremaschi, an 18-year-old Argentine American midfielder from Key Biscayne, got an assist against Columbus seven minutes into his first MLS start. He kept the starting job against Atlanta and New England.
Harvey Neville, the 20-year-old son of coach Phil Neville, came from England, rose through the reserve team and played significant minutes with the first team. He provided the cross that led to Miami’s lone goal in a 1-0 U.S. Open Cup win against Charleston Battery. Noah Allen, Ian Fray, and Edison Azcona have also made the leap to the first team.
That youthful energy has rubbed off on older Inter Miami players.
“They’ve added energy and that’s something we were missing a little bit,” said captain DeAndre Yedlin. “They’re everywhere. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’re going to feed off that. When I see David flying through a tackle, even if he gets a yellow card, I’m like `Wow, a 19-year-old kid doing this in an MLS game, I’ve got to pick my game up and raise my energy level.’
“They’re fearless. They haven’t really experienced enough to fear anything and that’s the best way to play.”
Phil Neville said this group reminds him of himself and Inter Miami owner David Beckham when they broke into Manchester United as teenagers.
“I broke into a team with five of my friends and you form a special bond and it’s powerful,” he said. “When you go into the first team dressing room for the first time, if you’re alone, it’s intimidating. But when five of your mates are in there with you, you create your own spirit within the group. When you go out on the training ground you have your own fun. When one does well, the others celebrate. It’s important we keep them together.”
Inter Miami faces a tough challenge against Nashville (5-3-4), which has lost just one of six games against Miami and has outscored Miami 10-3. League MVP Hany Mukhtar has six goals and five assists this season and leads MLS with 29 goals and 16 assists since 2022.
Left back Franco Negri returns to the Miami lineup after serving a red-card suspension. Center back Sergiy Kryvtsov (calf) is questionable. Rodolfo Pizarro (hamstring) is out.
“Challenging game on Wednesday against a side that are on the up again,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said. “What we do know is that Inter Miami are a very talented group and they’re in a very good run at the minute.”