The still-winless Chicago Fire travel down to Florida this weekend to take on Inter Miami as they look to finally kickstart their season. Miami have had a mixed bag of results to start their year, but have proven to be a formidable team at home and this will be a tough game for the Fire. We spoke with Austin Robillard of the Heron Outlet to learn more about the Fire’s opponent.
The Fire had two good performances against Inter Miami last season, a 0-0 draw on the road and a 3-1 win at home. How has Miami changed over the off-season?
Not only has Miami solidified their backline with the likes of Sergiy Kryvstov and Franco Negri, they have also added starting players to the attack to round out the depth that they lacked at times in previous seasons. Tactically, this team is very different than what the Fire saw in both appearances last season, especially the 0-0 draw, which happened to be the opener. Miami has shifted to somewhat of a 4-3-1-2 or has tried to, after finding success late on in the 2022 season. However, with injuries and now international duty at play, a more traditional 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-1-4-1 might be in store as the Herons have looked to be strong technically in the midfield this year and have held more possession in the opposition’s half in their two home games to start the year.
Miami are at .500 right now with two wins and two losses. How have they looked so far in general?
At home, Miami has looked like a top side in all of MLS. Not only did they control the game against Montreal and end up with a shutout, but they also did the same against the Union the following week. Both two-goal wins to start the year opened many eyes to the potential success this team could have in 2023. On the road, however, it was more of the same 2022 woes that hindered their successful start to the year. Lack of ability to score goals, control the game, and concede too many open chances. It’s as if Miami are two totally different teams this year, and for their sake, hopefully, returning to DRV PNK results in finding the better of the two.
In both prior trips to Miami, the Fire have never won. How will Inter approach this game to try to get the three points once again?
Taking the game to the Fire early on in the first half is a huge possibility here. In 2022, with a lead at half-time, Miami had a record of 7W-2D-0L and extended that with their two 2023 half-time leads, both at home, to 9W-2D-0L. To have the highest probability of retaining the three points at home, Miami must get out in front in the first forty-five, so I fully expect that to be part of the plans. They’ll attempt to do that by retaining possession, keeping a high line, and making most of their passes in the opposition’s half while trying to stay progressive.
Which players from Inter Miami should Fire fans keep a particularly close eye on?
Miami’s best player over the course of the 2023 season so far is undoubtedly their goalkeeper, Drake Callender. His shot-stopping performances in every game thus far have earned him two TOTM honors and seriously propelled Miami to the position they’re in now. It will take a lot for the Fire to get past him, especially if the backline holds up a bit better than they have been.
Also, keep an eye on the status of Young DP striker Leonardo Campana. Reports Thursday morning point to him still being out, and then it will beg the question, what does Phil Neville do at the #9? The names to look for: Nicolas Stefanelli, Corentin Jean, and Ariel Lassiter. All are capable of playing a single striker role in the absence of Campana and Martínez, who is on international duty with Venezuela. Nonetheless, how Neville sees his desired system working with a new face up top is a particularly interesting storyline for Saturday.