No Messi, No Problem

It was no Messi no problem for Inter Miami as they took down Sporting Kansas City 3-2 in DRV PNK Stadium Saturday night. To be more accurate, Inter Miami were actually missing a total of eight players for international duty across 3 continents in competitions ranging from friendlies to World Cup qualifying and Euro Championship qualifying matches. Messi was the most famous and impactful absence but all of the missing players are very important to the team. We don’t take their lack of participation for granted. Many analysts considered the games Messi would miss as automatic losses for Miami when prognosticating about our prospects of being able to make the playoffs. However, Tata Martino and the crew had other ideas as they demonstrated that with the blueprint already being laid and the other quality players Miami has, we can still get it done against MLS competition while Messi is away nailing game winner free kicks for Argentina. It also helps that Inter Miami still has high quality players on its roster like Busquets, Alba, Farrias, Yedlin, Miller, Callender, and Campana that were not called up for international duty during this window.

Sporting KC like Miami is fighting for their playoff lives and gave it their best shot to take all 3 points while on the road in South Florida. Sporting actually struck first in the game on a seemingly routine save that Drake Callender spilled and the rebound was put back in the net by Daniel Salloi in the 9th minute. It was an early setback for Miami that was atypical, but it only made the comeback all the more sweet. The Herons in pink stayed the course and began to build up with more protracted sessions of possession leading to a brilliant attack in the 25th minute that saw the big Ecuadorian striker Leo Campana get in the box in a dangerous position and earning a penalty kick from the spot after the goalkeeper made a clumsy challenge that put Campana on his backside. Moments later Campana buried the equalizing goal and just 16 minutes after the KC score, it was game on and all level.

Leo Campana ended up scoring a brace after DeAndre Yedlin took on the right sided fullback like a right sided winger and got to the byline and fired in an elevated right-footed in swinging cross that only 6 foot 2 inch (188 cm) Campana could get to and he buried it in the far corner away from the outstretched arms of Tim Melia, giving Inter Miami the 2-1 lead going into halftime. Yedlin and Campana resolved themselves to not go into halftime trailing or tied. They wanted the lead and it showed, Campana attacked the ball with ferocity and the golazo it produced got the crowd at DRV PNK going. Campana is a very skilled in the box type number 9 with his big frame, heading ability, and his ability to finish with both feet, his selection in the team by Tata Martino was very astute.

Ecuador could have used Campana’s finishing skill in their World Cup qualifier match against Argentina. Ecuador was blanked, with their chosen striker Valencia and teammates scoring no goals. Instead “el maestro.” Messi hit a beautiful free kick that ended up being the game winner. Inter Miami fans are just hoping all of their players return to the team happy and healthy after the international break to make the rest of their hopefully dramatic run to make the playoffs. We also have an upcoming US Open Cup Final a little over 2 weeks away.  It may have been a blessing in disguise that Campana was not called up by Ecuador as his brace was needed to get the win due to Sporting KC’s late goal by Pulido in the 78th minute that made the last 18 minutes of the game very tense and nervy. KC were relentless in trying to keep the ball and score that 3rd and equalizing goal, but Miami did just enough to get over the line and see the match out. Thanks to DC United’s scoreless draw, the Pinks sit only 6 points below the current playoff threshold line and have 8 games to play with a maximum of 24 points to play for to make up that deficit

Considering that Miami has 2 additional games in hand to play over the rest of the field and are unbeaten in all of their matches since Busquets and Messi debuted for the team, I like their chances to pull off the impossible. However, the games have to be played. Next up from Inter Miami CF is a rematch with Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz stadium on Saturday September 16th at 5 PM local time. Miami should have all of its players back and ready to go for the showdown with Tata Martino’s old team that he took to an MLS Cup Championship. Vamos Miami!

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