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The Inter Miami Preview

Going into April, I felt much better about this game. While Charlotte managed 4 points through a rough stretch of games, Miami managed a whopping 9 points in April, with wins over New England, Seattle, and Atlanta.


If you follow MLS even a little (outside of just following Charlotte), you probably know a big reason for this: the inclusion of Leonardo Campana as a lone striker. Before April, Campana (or another striker) was playing alongside the corpse of Gonzalo Higuaín. On April 2nd, against Houston, Miami switched to a lone striker up top, still playing Higuaín. They lost 3-1. Over the next 4 games, the 21 year old Ecuadorian has come in for Higuaín and been on an absolute tear. In fact, Higuaín has only appeared in 1 game (ATL) for 8 minutes since that Houston loss.


I was really hoping Miami would not figure things out until after we played them.

 

Team

Possession

Shots per game

Shots on target per game

Goals for (xG)

Goals against (xGA)

Points (standings)

WhoScored team rating (SofaScore team rating)

Charlotte FC

53.2%

10.80

4.20

9 (9.1)

13 (14.7)

10 (11th in the East)

6.52 (6.80)

Inter Miami

42.2%

11.56

3.11

9 (9.9)

18 (14.6)

10 (12th in the East)

6.46 (6.75)

Both of these teams are pretty bang on with their goals scored vs. xG. Miami is conceding a lot of goals, but on xGA they're right where Charlotte is. While we are tied with them on points, they have only played 9 matches compared with our 10. This is another team who doesn't necessarily need or want possession. While Charlotte keep improving their possession stat, as many of us have noted it's been largely meaningless possession. I think this is the first time Charlotte have had a higher WhoScored and SofaScore team rating than their opponent, for what that's worth.

 

Miami have been trying to find a formation that works, much in the same way Charlotte has. They started the year playing a 3-5-2 against Chicago and Austin. They switched to a 4-4-2 for two games against LAFC and Cincinnati. They next tried a 4-3-3 against Houston and their first New England match at home. They've played a 4-1-4-1 in their past 3 matches (Seattle, Atlanta, and New England away). The switch to a back 4 has definitely helped and it looks like the 4-1-4-1 is where they are settling.


Miami has been playing really well over the past 4 games. I would ignore the New England away game a bit. NE scored within the first minute after a horrible giveaway by their keeper. Miami also ended the game down two men, as center halves Damion Lowe and Jairo Quinteros both received reds in the 60th and 76th minutes, respectively. We'll get more into Miami's issues at center back later. NE scored their second goal in the 64th minute, just after Lowe was sent off. Now I will say, Miami didn't appear to play well this game. I didn't see the full 90, but the highlights were mostly NE highlights. This game shouldn't be completely ignored, but a lot of weird things happened in it. It's a sign that Miami isn't as good as maybe their previous few games were indicating, but it also very much feels like a one-off type of performance.


Injury/Suspension Report

MIA lineup vs. SEA, 4/16, via MLS
MIA lineup vs. SEA, 4/16, via MLS

Miami's roster is a bit of a mess right now. Campana left the NE game in the 12th minute with "tightness in the bottom part of his leg." They then lost center back Aime Mabika in the 19th minute of the NE game with a muscle injury. Quinteros, one of the two CBs to get a red, came on for Mabika. With Lowe's red, Miami's CB depth is decimated. According to the Miami Herald, Campana is expected back for the game on Saturday.


Higuaín and forward Robbie Robinson's statuses are unknown according to the Herald. The same can be said about the status of Mabika.


According to transfermarkt, Miami only have two listed injuries with CB Ian Fray (out with an ACL injury) and LB Joevin Jones (knee injury). They also still have Blaise Matuidi on payroll, but he's just cashing a check as Miami said he will not play for them this year (last year of his contract).


MIA lineup vs. ATL, 4/24, via MLS
MIA lineup vs. ATL, 4/24, via MLS

According to MLS's official availability report, there are a lot more players injured. In addition to Fray and Jones, Nick Marsman (GK), Victor Ulloa (CM), Robinson, and Ryan Sailor (CB) are all listed as out with an undisclosed injury. Lowe, Edison Azcona (CM), Bryce Duke (CM), and Kieran Gibbs (LB) are all listed as questionable with undisclosed injuries. Does Miami know they're a soccer club and not a secret agency? What's with all the "undisclosed"?


Based on the fact that Lowe is on this report, I don't think it's been updated yet. Again, he won't play due to suspension (unless it is appealed and overturned, but I saw the second yellow in the highlights and there is just no way that's overturned). I've also seen in differing information on Marsman with one site saying he's doubtful rather than out.


Attack

Higuaín is the big name of this group, but former Real/Napoli/Juventus/AC Milan/Chelsea man is nowhere near what he used to be. There have even been rumors he is planning to retire at the end of the season, though he has denied that.


In his heyday, Higuaín was a force to be reckoned with: 107 goals in 190 appearances for Real Madrid and 71 goals in 104 appearances for Napoli (including a 36 goal season). His time with Juve was okay with 48 goals in 105 appearances. He's bounced around for a while now though, going on loan from Juve to Chelsea and Milan in 2018-19 (11 goals in 29 total appearances across both teams). He was back at Juve for 2019-2020, but only recorded 8 goals in 32 appearances. He then moved to Miami, where he's been fine (15 goals in 45 appearances).

MIA lineup vs. NE, 4/30, via MLS
MIA lineup vs. NE, 4/30, via MLS

Honestly, for a lot of forwards, the return he has for Miami would constitute a good season, but compared with where he was as a player, it's not. Higuaín was a 0.81 goals per 90 player for Real, a 0.78 goals per 90 player for Napoli, and a 0.56 goals per 90 player for Juve. He's at 0.37 goals per 90 for Inter Miami. This isn't bad, but he's 34 now and his best years are decidedly in the past. If he plays (which is a big 'if' considering the form of Campana and Higuaín's reported injury), he still offers a threat. At one point, there was a real argument about whether Higuaín or Karim Benzema was the better player. Benzema is still starting for Real Madrid and might win the Ballon d'Or this year; Higuaín has lost his place to a 21 year old MLS rookie.


Campana has been Miami's real star so far this year. He's on his 5th team in five years. He started his career with Barcelona SC in the Ecuadorian Serie A and then moved to, but has not yet played for, Wolves in England. Wolves loaned him out to Famalicão in the Portuguese Primeira Liga for the 2020-21 season and then to Grasshopper in the Swiss Super League for the 2021-22 season. He's now on a season-long loan to Inter Miami.

Campana heatmap, Inter Miami 2022, via SofaScore
Campana heatmap, Inter Miami 2022, via SofaScore

Campana already has a career high in goals with 5 in 9 appearances. Coming into this year, he had a total of 8 goals for his career. He's outperforming his xG of 3.1 a little, but good players will do that. He might regress or he might not; at 21, he could just be starting to produce. Wolves have a decent eye for talent, so the fact that they plucked him from the Ecuadoran league leads me to believe he has real talent.


Campana is an interesting forward. He's very much a box scorer, with his average distance for shots being 12 yards out (for reference, Świderski's average distance is 17.6 yards). However, as his map from both this year and last year in the Swiss League show, he's all over the pitch. He's drifting really deep to get involved in the play and will go wide as well. He actually has more touches in the middle 3rd of the park (92) than in the attacking 3rd (75).

Campana heatmap, Grasshopper 2021, via SofaScore
Campana heatmap, Grasshopper 2021, via SofaScore

Campana is dangerous, but I'm not ready to fully jump on board the hype train with him. My hesitancy comes solely from the small sample size we have of him. Before this year, he only had 12 career starts; he's at 7 already this year. This could mean that now that he's finally gotten a chance to start consistently he is producing. Or, it could be that he's simply had more time in a team, so has happened to produce more. I know that's a fine distinction, but he's so young that I don't think we can say he is the player he was in April for sure. He very well could be, though.


Other forwards include Ariel Lassiter, Robinson, and Azcona. The latter two might be injured and unavailable. Azcona is very young at 18. Robinson is also young at 23. Lassiter is the elder of the group at 27.


Lassiter is a MLS vet, having played in the league since 2015. He was with the LA Galaxy from 2015-2018, then joined the Houston Dynamo for 2 years. This is his first year in Miami. He's never been a scorer or goal contributor; his best season came in 2020 with Houston when he had 3 goals and 1 assist. He never had an assist in LA. He has 1 assist so far this year. He has been more prolific at lower divisions with 30 goals and 6 assists for LA Galaxy 2 (58 appearances), but it has never translated into MLS success.


Robinson is the bigger miss. He played in 24 games last year for Miami and had 4 goals. This year, he has appeared in 5 games and has a goal and an assist. He's actually averaging 4.10 SCAs/90 so far this year. He likes to take people on, too. He's 10/11 with his dribbles so far this year and has 41 progressive carries on the year. If he can't go, it will be a miss for Miami.


Azcona has only 5 appearances for a total of 59 minutes for his career. I don't have anything to say about a player with so few minutes under his belt.


A last note is that Miami just signed Indiana Vassilev on loan from Aston Villa as a reinforcement for their frontline. The 21 year old forward was on loan with Miami last year, making 21 appearances and scoring 3 goals. He's only appeared in 5 games for Villa's U-23 side in the Premier League 2, but does have 2 goals and an assist. Normally, I wouldn't think he'd be available to play on such short notice, but with his familiarity with club, he might.


Midfield

In the midfield, there have been a few constants for Miami, though they have rotated a bit. Robert Taylor and Jean Mota have both played in all 9 of their matches, with Taylor starting 7 and Mota starting 9. Mo Adams and Gregore have each appeared in 8 games, with Adams starting 5 and Gregore starting 8. Emerson Rodríguez has appeared in 6 games, but hasn't started any of them. Bryce Duke has appeared in 4 games, starting 1. George Acosta and Ulloa (who isn't even on MLS's roster page for Miami) have each made one appearance. Modesto Mendez is the last midfielder listed but he has yet to appear for them (he's also listed as a defender).


Mota is the Matuidi replacement and will most likely start. He's usually played as the the deepest midfielder in their 4-1-4-1. The 28 year old is coming from Santos in Brazil, where he was a regular (152 appearances with 99 starts). He's never had more than 2 goals in a season (9 for his career) nor been a prolific assist man (12 career assists with a career-high of 5 all the way back in 2016). However, that's not really his role.


I wouldn't necessarily call him a defensive midfielder. While he's pretty good at reading the game (17 interceptions on the year), he's not great in the other defensive duties. He has 23 tackles on the year, with 13 of those tackles winning possession for his team (in fairness, both of those figures would pace our midfielders...), but he will get dribbled past (19 times on the year so far). In fact, versus dribbles, he only has a 24% tackle percentage which is not great. He also pressures a lot (162 attempts on the year), but isn't particularly successful at it (22.8% success percentage).


The reason he gets in the team is for his distribution; he's a deeper lying playmaker. He's 86.4% on short passing (118 attempts), 82.8% on medium passing (122 attempts), and 65.5% on long passing (87 attempts). He has 38 progressive passes on the season, which easily paces our midfielders. He has 31 SCAs on the season.


His compatriot Gregore is defensive muscle. He's a good distributor in his own right. He's 88.3% on short passing (128 attempts), 86.9% on medium passing (153 attempts), and 78.8% on long passing (66 attempts). In fact, he's a career 77.1% long passer for Miami on 340 attempts over two seasons. He has 27 progressive passes on the year. Gregore leads all midfielders in defensive 3rd pressures and he's a good tackler of dribblers (40.7% success rate on 27 attempts). He has never scored a goal in his career (both in MLS and in Brazil).


Adams, coming over from Atlanta, is finally getting an opportunity to play consistently. He had a total of 1,020 minutes across 3 seasons for Atlanta; he's already at 354 minutes this year. He only has one career goal and assist, but he's a really good passer (career 91.9% for short passing, 90.8% for medium passing, and 77.4% for long passing). He's also pretty good defensively (he's actually listed as a midfielder/defender on Miami's site). He has 18 tackles on the season in only 3.9 90s. He also has a 71.4% success rate versus dribblers. Between him and Gregore, they can make up for some of Mota's shortcomings.


Taylor has come over from the Norwegian Eliteserien (1st division), where he was good. Over 4 years in the Eliteserien, he scored 20 goals and had 15 assists over 112 appearances (105 starts). For a wide player that is a good return. He had 6 goals over each of the past 2 seasons and 8 assists last year. This production hasn't translated to MLS so far, as he has 0 goals or assists in 9 appearances, but it seems likely that will change at some point. He likes to take on players too, with 26 take-ons already. In previous years, he was putting in a lot of crosses (4.15 crosses/90 for his previous team). Whether due to personnel or tactics, that has not been the case this year, as he only has 5 total crosses on the year.


Rodríguez hasn't yet started for them and has no counting stats so far. He's just come from Millonarios in Colombia's Primera A. For a young winger (he's only 21), his 8 goals and 7 assists for Millonarios over two seasons is a good return.


Duke has a goal on the season, having coming over from LAFC. He's also 21. His passing needs some work outside of short passing, as he's a career 80.3% passer for medium distances and 48.4% for long distances.


Ulloa played a lot for them last year (21 appearances on 14 starts) while Acosta has only made one career appearances at the MLS level.


It seems likely that the starters will be Gregore, Mota, Taylor and then a toss-up that is probably dependent upon health.


Defense

As previously stated, Miami could very well be without their top 3 CBs in Quinteros, Lowe, and Mabika (the first two due to suspension and the latter due to injury). Old USMNT friends Brek Shea and DeAndre Yedlin have both played for them at fullback this year. As an Arsenal fan, I had completely forgotten about Kieran Gibbs and was surprised to see him on Miami's roster. Noah Allen is a young fullback who has gotten some minutes for them. Christopher McVey has been playing as a fullback for them, but I believe he can also play CB (at least he played there early in the year when Miami was in a back 3). Considering their lack of options at CB, I think he might be there for this game. Ryan Sailor is their final option at CB. He was Inter's first round pick in the 2022 draft (9th overall). He has good size at 6'4" and was a first team All-American at Washington. He was injured during the preseason, but there is a chance he debuts for the club this week.


Outside of Yedlin, I don't really know who will start in this backline. Shea hasn't appeared in a game since LAFC and Gibbs is questionable. Allen could be a possibility, but he's only been a sub in MLS. A backline that included him and a debuting CB doesn't seem like a recipe for success for Miami.


It's easy to forget because he's been around for so long, but Yedlin is still only 28. He's never quite reached the heights many thought he would when he burst onto the scene in 2013 as a 19 year old, but you can't say he hasn't had a successful career. He was a starter in the Premier League for multiple seasons and played a good amount for Galatasaray in Turkey over the past couple of years. A move back to the US probably made sense for him at this point in his career.


Nothing has really changed about Yedlin's profile: he's still an attack-minded fullback who likes to get up the pitch. He's not a prolific crosser (15 on the year, only 38 last year), but is a solid passer for someone who is so attack-minded. This is especially true of this year, where he is above his career percentages in passing for short, medium, and long passes (he's WAY above his career percentage in medium passing at 91.1%; his career number is 75.6%).


I'm not quite sure what else to look into with this group. There's just so much unknown about them right now.


Goalkeeper

Miami has had 3 of their 4 goalkeepers start for them this year: Nick Marsman, Clément Diop, and Drake Callender. Marsman has made the most starts with 5, followed by Diop with 3, and Callender with 1. Callender started in their 3-1 loss to Cincinnati. Diop started the first 3 games of the year. Marsman has started the past 5. All of these keepers have allowed a lot of goals: Marsman (8), Diop (7), and Callender (3). Marsman was their starter all of last year and was injured to begin this year.


Marsman is in his 2nd year with Miami have come over from Feyenoord in the Eredivisie. His first year with Feyenoord, he didn't really play (2 starts). His 2nd and last year with Feyenoord, he started 20 games, only allowing 17 goals (0.85 goals/90). Last year for Miami, in almost the same amount of games (22 starts), he allowed 33 goals (1.55 goals/90). For his career, Marsman is at 1.32 goals/90 with a 71% career save%. His save% on the year is 72.7% and last year it was 67.4%. Last year Marsman underperformed, at least according to PSxG+/-, as he had a -1.7 PSxG+/-. This year he is actually at a +1.0 for this.


I'm not saying Marsman is bad, but there's a reason he's bounced around so much (he's played for Twente, Twente's reserve team, Utrecht, Utrecht's reserve team, Feyenoord, and now Miami). He's only been the clear starter a few times in his career: 2012-13 when he was on loan at Go Ahead Eagles (amazing name) in the 2nd division of Holland (32 starts); 2013-14 for Twente (34 starts); and 2016-17 for Twente (34 starts). He did start in 21 and 23 games for Twente in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively, but they had other goalies start a number of other games. It might have been injury related, I'm not sure. He split time in his final year with Feyenoord too. I think there's a reason he's never nailed down a job for a consistent period of time: he's not good enough to do that. He's probably not a goalkeeper that you can't win with, but I don't think he's one that teams are dying to keep.


If Marsman can't go, I would think Diop would step in. He's an MLS vet who spent the last 3 seasons in Montreal. He has a career 1.48 goals allowed per 90. He appeared in a career high (for MLS) 20 games for Montreal in 2020. Before that, he had only started a total of 18 games with the LA Galaxy and Montreal in MLS. In 2020 with Montreal, he actually had a +1.8 PSxG+/-, but he did allow 36 goals (1.80 goals allowed/90). He has the profile of a backup keeper who can keep you in a season, but will probably never be your starter for any extended period of time.


Maybe I'm a broken record, but Charlotte can get goals against either of these keepers. We have to start creating chances and testing them. Chances are they would fail.


Conclusion

Charlotte are better at home and I hoping that continues tomorrow. I'm excited to finally be back in BoA to see the boys live.


I'm really hopeful that Jóźwiak starts. I doubt Shinyashiki will start, but I definitely hope to see him off the bench. There's been questions about where exactly he will play, but I'd love to see him as a wide player in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Jóźwiak will stretch the field vertically, so having someone who is a bit more central of a player on the opposite wing is probably not the worst thing. I'm also hoping MAR gives Ruiz a start.


This is the lineup I want to see, not necessarily the one I think we will:

I don't believe Bender is a winger, but without Shinyashiki being ready to start, I think this gets (most of) our dynamic players in the lineup. I wouldn't be opposed to Gaines starting either. Jóźwiak can play on either wing, even though I think he should eventually be on the left. He's my boy, but I think Franco might need a game or two off. I don't really think he'll be dropped, though. I do want Ruiz to get a run and I think he's earned one with his cameos. Maybe Alcívar gets dropped in favor of Ruiz with Franco keeping his place? Honestly, I'm more worried about MAR keeping a diamond. Fingers crossed Jóźwiak has shown he's ready to start so that we can ditch the diamond.


To me, these players would make more sense in a 4-2-3-1, with Ruiz at the top and a Ruiz/Alcívar double pivot. Apparently MAR has a history with the 4-2-3-1, but until I see him use it in an MLS game, I won't believe it.


There's no doubt that Miami have been playing better than they were at the beginning of the season, but they have a lot of issues right now due to injury and suspension. There is a very good chance they are starting a C-team backline; there are no excuses for Charlotte to not take advantage of that. If they do end up starting the young CB Sailor, I would love to see us try to get Świderski isolated on him. If we do, Karol could crush the kid. I would imagine, though, that if Sailor does play, someone like Gregore will be giving him a lot of help. Whatever the make-up of the backline, it won't be a good one.


Prediction: Charlotte 3 - Miami 2


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