Inter Miami is perfect at home no more.
A two-goal comeback was for naught for Inter Miami on Saturday night, as the Chicago Fire used a stoppage-time goal from substitute striker Kei Kamara to hand Inter Miami a 3-2 loss at DRV PNK Stadium.
Argentine duo Franco Negri and Nicolas Stefanelli had pulled Inter Miami level with their first MLS goals, but an unmarked Kamara punished the South Florida side with a 92nd-minute finish to the near post.
The result marked Inter Miami’s first home loss of the season and third straight overall. Coach Phil Neville’s side is now 2-0-3 on the year.
“We are disappointed with the result,” Neville said. “We have been punished for three basic errors.”
The Fire initially jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to first-half strikes from winger Chris Mueller and centerback Carlos Teran, but Negri sparked the rally efforts just before halftime with a sublime control that allowed for an outside-the-foot finish.
Turning from scorer to provider, the Inter Miami left back then assisted on compatriot Stefanelli’s equalizer in the 76th minute. Negri hit a floated cross on the sequence, finding Stefanelli at the back post for a clinical header that sent the announced crowd of 17,669 fans into a frenzy.
“I think we saw two different sides of the team,” Stefanelli said in Spanish. “In the first half we saw one version and in the second half we saw another.”
Inter Miami’s hopes of a late win were dashed, however, when Kamara found himself open at the back post to meet a low cross from Brian Gutierrez. The veteran striker made no mistake on his look from the left, firing a hard low shot past Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender.
“It is something we worked on,” Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “We noticed that once the ball gets on the wing in their final third when they are in the box, they get a little narrow and they always leave the back post.
“… We made sure we told our weak-side winger, ‘Whenever we are crossing you make sure you get in, someone has to get to the back post.’ We had two or three occasions tonight, and we got it to the guy a couple times.”
Neville strongly disagreed with that analysis when informed of Ezra’s remarks.
“That’s bull---- really,” Nevile said. “I honestly think it is because I think you have just got to defend. You think about the first goal, it had nothing to do with the way that we defend. The last goal had nothing to do with the way we defend.”
Neville made two personnel changes to the starting lineup vs. the Fire, reinserting right back DeAndre Yedlin and giving central midfielder Victor Ulloa his first start of the season.
With Josef Martinez away on international duty with Venezuela and Leonardo Campana still recovering from injury, Stefanelli was given the start up top while Bryce Duke slotted in behind as the attacking midfielder.
Those moves did not lead to an improved showing, as the South Florida side struggled to keep possession under the Fire’s smothering pressure. Inter Miami was constantly forced into hitting long balls forward as a result, and struggled to win those with any type of regularity against a tenacious Fire team.
“We could not find the pass through the middle,” Stefanelli said. “Maybe we did not want to take risks or we were always giving the easy pass. Sometimes to break that pressure you have to play that forward pass in order to break their lines.”
One such play in which Inter Miami failed to do that led to the opener at the half-hour mark. An aerial pass intended for Rodolfo Pizarro came back the other way in a matter of seconds before Mueller blasted in Kacper Przybylko’s low ball.
Inter Miami was punished again in the 38th minute. A free kick and a pair of poor clearance attempts allowed Turan to get on the ball at a tight angle, smashing his ensuing take over Callender and into the roof of the net.
“If you do not do the basics really well then you will get goals against you,” Neville said.
Negri provided Inter Miami a lifeline with his goal, which came off a diagonal feed from Jean Mota, and the Herons looked more invigorated in the second half as they pushed for the equalizer vs. a Fire side content to absorb pressure and hit on the counter.
Stefanelli eventually equalized, but the draw and possibility of a victory slipped away in the dying minutes.
“The evolution of this team is that they need to start learning and learning fast because you lose games and losing games and suffering this adversity is not nice,” Neville said. “I do not want them to lose their confidence.”
Inter Miami next hits the road, where it is winless this season, to take on FC Cincinnati on April 1.