It was supposed to be a Friday night celebration of all that was going right for Inter Miami.
The team was on an impressive 11-game run, had climbed from basement dweller to playoff contender, and was debuting its new XBTO-sponsored jersey in front of a sellout crowd of 18,535 and a national T.V. audience.
But the home fans had nothing to celebrate. Just about everything that could have gone wrong for Inter Miami did. They lost 4-0 to the New York Red Bulls, and lost two of their best players for Wednesday’s game against Nashville SC.
How bad was it? Miami – down a man after the 38th minute – was outshot 16-2 in the first half and 27-2 for the game.
Boos could be heard raining down from the stands as the final whistle blew.
The only good news for Miami is that it didn’t drop in the standings because New York was ranked three spots behind. Inter Miami remains in eighth place, one spot and one point shy of the playoff line, with 10 games remaining.
Coach Phil Neville called the result “a reality check”, said he hopes it’s a one-off and took responsibility for the loss.
“I probably picked the wrong team in terms of amount of freshness,” he said. “We looked leggy and fatigued at the end of a really tough week. But ultimately, we’ve still got to do better. Going down to 10 men left us with a mountain to climb. We were probably lucky we weren’t down to 10 men sooner. Nico (Figal) was lucky not to get sent off before that.”
The Red Bulls -- young, hungry, and full of energy -- came out on fire, pressed high, and put Miami on its heels from the opening minutes.
New York peppered the Miami goal with three shots in the first four minutes. Two went left, one went right.
Then, in the ninth minute, Patryk Klimala got behind typically-reliable Figal and launched a shot that would have gone in were it not for a world-class sliding clearance at the line by Christian Makoun, following up on his game-winning penalty kick against Toronto three nights earlier.
Figal got a yellow card on that play, which knocked him out of the Nashville game due to yellow card accumulation. He was then slapped with a second yellow in the 38th minute and was ejected, leaving Miami with 10 men. Figal will have to miss the next two games.
“When you’re tired, you sometimes hit out at those closest to you,” Neville said.
According to reports in Mexican media, Tigres is interested in Figal and would like to sign him on loan with option to buy his contract. The Liga MX transfer window closes Sept. 22. It is unknown whether that situation affected Figal’s play on Friday.
Klimala would get his goal in the 18th minute to put New York on the scoreboard.
Two minutes later, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez picked up a yellow, which means he, too, will miss the Nashville game – a double blow to a Miami back line that had collected four straight clean sheets entering Friday’s game.
Miami continued to struggle, losing 50-50 balls to the tenacious Red Bulls, who dominated the midfield.
“We accept the defeat, New York Red Bulls were the best team,” Neville said. “They totally, totally dominated the game.”
Miami midfielder Blaise Matuidi agreed.
“We have to forget about this night,” said the French World Cup winner. “When you look back, we were doing well, getting good results, but this night was not our night. It was not my night. I have to play better. We have to focus on the next game versus Nashville, which is coming soon.”
Robbie Robinson knocked knees with a New York player and left the game late in the first half.
The first half ended with Gonzalo Higuain getting a yellow card extra time after fouling Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel.
Neville decided to rest Lewis Morgan in the second half and replaced him with Indiana Vassilev.
“The boy’s been running, running, running for the last eight months, so it was a good time to take him off and give him a breather,” the coach explained.
Miami was unable to recover in the second half.
New York stretched the lead to 3-0 in the 65th minute on a header by Fabio from the center of the box to the bottom left corner. John Tolkin had the assist with a cross following a corner kick.
Fabio struck again in the 88th minute, also with his head, to make it 4-0.
“There are plenty of twists and turns left in the season,” Neville said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do. Nobody is going to hand us a playoff spot. We’ve got to move on very fast. We’re in the home straightaway. You can’t dwell on defeats. We’ve been on a great run, showed great attitude, fight, determination and quality and tonight was one where we didn’t show those qualities we’ve been showing.”