Takeaways from Inter Miami loss to St. Louis in scrimmage, plus Ukrainian back to sign

It was only a scrimmage. As many as five Inter Miami projected starters – including forward Josef Martinez – did not play. So, Saturday night’s 4-0 loss to expansion team St. Louis City in a preseason game is no reason for Miami coaches, players, or fans to panic.

Still, the inability to score over 120 minutes (four 30-minute periods), following a 3-0 preseason loss to Brazilian club Vasco da Gama, must be a concern for coach Phil Neville, who has promised a high-octane offense in 2023 to make up for retired Gonzalo Higuain.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

The scoring struggles continue: Martinez, one of the most prolific goalscorers in MLS history, will be a welcome addition to Miami’s attack, which has failed to find the back of the net against a professional opponent this preseason. (Word is they scored three against FIU in a closed-door scrimmage last week).

Martinez is working his way into shape after joining the team from Atlanta United. Midfielders Bryce Duke and Jean Mota, recovering from injuries, were also missing, as were defenders Ryan Sailor (injured) and Franco Negri (just arrived from Argentina Thursday).

Leo Campana and Ariel Lassiter started at forward against St. Louis with midfielders Rodolfo Pizarro, Robert Taylor and Coco behind them. Robbie Robinson and Jake La Cava started up top in the third period, with Nico “Chicho” Stefanelli and Benajmin Cremaschi attacking from midfield.

Miami’s best chance came from left back Noah Allen, who fired a shot that sailed just past the far post. That scoring sequence began with a long pass into Campana, who fed the ball to Lassiter, who served it to Allen.

Stefanelli looked promising: The newly signed Stefanelli, who got to camp last week, played 30 minutes and showed flashes of the skill and decision-making that attracted the club’s scouts. He can play anywhere in the midfield but will likely be used as a playmaker.

He said he learned a lot about his teammates from the scrimmage and the one week of training with them.

“It is good for me to learn about my teammates’ tendencies and movements so I can adapt to them,” Stefanelli said. “I see that Leo can flick it up because he always wins the air duels, so for me, if I am number 10, I have to be close to him to pick up second balls because if he plays with Ari or Josef, they are really fast to run in behind to take those flicked balls.

“With Ari you have to be really adaptable because he’s really fast, makes diagonal runs and I have to be ready when I receive the ball to turn and pass fast to him.”

Argentine midfielder Nico “Chicho” Stefanelli made his Inter Miami debut at a scrimmage against St. Louis City SC on Jan. 28, 2023.
Argentine midfielder Nico “Chicho” Stefanelli made his Inter Miami debut at a scrimmage against St. Louis City SC on Jan. 28, 2023.

Miami’s back line showed cracks: Neville has been eager to strengthen the center back position, and help is on the way. Team sources confirmed the club is finalizing a deal for hard-nosed 31-year-old Ukrainian back Serhiy Kryvtsov, who played for Shakhtar, one of Ukraine’s top teams, and the Ukrainian national team. He is expected to join the team in the coming days.

Defenders DeAndre Yedlin, Aime Mabika, Christopher McVey and Allen started on Saturday.

Former Inter Miami winger Indiana Vassilev scored against his former teammates in the second period when he unleashed a free kick from distance past Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender. Vassilev did a muted celebration, raising his hand before his current teammates swarmed him.

St. Louis’ other goals came in the final two periods from trialist Lucas Bartlett on a rebound on a corner kick, Samuel Adeniran off a pass from Bartlett, and Celio Pompeu on a penalty kick.

Inter Miami used two different lineups, and each played about 60 minutes.

First and second period lineup: Callender; Yedlin, Mabika, McVey, Allen; Gregore, Taylor, Pizarro, Coco; Lassiter, Campana.

Third period lineup: Nick Marsman; Israel Boatwright, Tyler Hall, Modesto Mendez, Kieran Gibbs, Harvey Neville; Victor Ulloa, Benjamin Cremaschi, Stefanelli; Robbie Robinson, Jake La Cava. CJ Dos Santos, Edison Azcona, David Ruiz and Shanyder Borgelin came in for the fourth period.

Inter Miami heads to Sarasota on Tuesday for a few days of training, culminating in a closed-door friendly against the New England Revolution on Thursday. The team returns home to train for a few more weeks and will play three more preseason matches. The regular season kicks off Feb. 25 with a home game against CF Montreal.