With their highly anticipated MLS debut, Inter Miami has a tough challenge ahead when they face perennial MLS cup contenders LAFC. But how will Diego Alonso line them up on Sunday?
If preseason is any indication, there are certainly a couple of things to be tweaked before the team takes the pitch. Speaking to the Miami Herald after a 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Union on February 15th, Alonso said this about the squad’s current state:
"“It was our first time going 90 minutes, we did some things very well, other things we need to work on. It doesn’t happen one day to the next. We need more depth up top and mobility to create more scoring chances. We are coming out of the back well, good midfield, we get advantage, but we need to improve in the final third and know when to change the game’s rhythm.”"
Alonso is known to switch up his tactics depending on the opponent, but the core principles remain the same: press, win the ball back, and try to force a mistake that can quickly turn into a goalscoring opportunity.
During Inter Miami’s two preseason games, Alonso played a 4-2-3-1 and experimented with a 5-4-1/ 3-4-2-1 hybrid. In their first match against the Union, the backline consisted of first choice center-back pairing, Nico Figal and Roman Torres, while the full-backs were Ben Sweat on the left and rookie Dylan Nealis on the right.
The midfield double pivot was comprised of the steady tempo of MLS veterans, Wil Trapp and Victor Ulloa, while the frontline featured young Designated Player Matias Pellegrini at right-wing, Luis Argudo on the left, Lee Nguyen pulling the strings as the number 10, and Juan Agudelo as the lone frontman.
Despite the loss, Miami showed that they were slowly but surely adapting to Alonso’s style. The passing was quick, the pressing was high, and the team had several good chances that they ultimately squandered
The game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, however, saw Inter Miami finally settle into what Alonso wants from his players:
Playing with a back three that saw Grant Lillard and Christian Makoun get minutes, Alonso utilized the team’s flurry of full-backs to his advantage. Mikey Ambrose and Alves Powell provided the width and defensive stability that had Miami retain the bulk of possession for the majority of the match.
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
The game also saw breakout performances from Jay Chapman and rookie Robbie Robinson, who scored the match’s only goal. The team pressed well, defended even better, and even saw some passion from the player’s when a tiny scuffle broke out late in the second half. But with preseason done and dusted, what does this mean against LAFC?
Well, look for Alonso to go with a veteran-heavy presence. LAFC is one of the best teams in MLS and having the know-how of players like Roman Torres, Luis Robles, and Wil Trapp will go a long way in possibly getting points. If the game against the Rowdies is anything to go by, we could see Alonso reverting to a back three again to provide that defensive stability while still having wing-backs like Ambrose and Powell that can stretch LACF’s backline on the counter-attack.
In defense, Christian Makoun could start alongside Torres and Figal in a back three. Makoun’s agility and passing ability will be key. In attack, it’s almost certain that Robinson will lead the line. His outing against the Rowdies proved that he can be the focal point of the attack until a DP striker is brought in or Julian Carranza returns from injury. And in midfield, it’s a toss-up depending on how Alonso wants to play: Rodolfo Pizarro or Lee Ngyuen could get the start based on their form during the preseason, depending on how MLS-heavy Alonso wants his team to be.
Ultimately, however, whoever starts on Sunday will have big shoes to fill. LAFC are uniquely brilliant. Alonso and co. will have to be at the top of their games. March 1st awaits.