Inter Miami faces D.C. United hoping to end nine-match winless skid, keep slim playoff hopes on life support

D.C. United coach Wayne Rooney walks off the pitch after a recent match. Inter Miami plays the former England great's squad at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
D.C. United coach Wayne Rooney walks off the pitch after a recent match. Inter Miami plays the former England great's squad at 7:30 p.m. tonight. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Club Internacional de Futbol Miami hasn't won a Major League Soccer match since May 13, when it held off New England 2-1. Since then, La Rosanegra have managed a pair of U.S. Open Cup victories but are winless in nine straight MLS dates.

That needs to change tonight in the nation's capital. Back-to-back draws against Austin and Columbus have provided the slightest bit of optimism among Heron fans -- the ones paying attention, anyway, as all but the most faithful are looking ahead to The Coming of former Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. But Inter Miami has won just one match on the road this season in nine tries, and again find themselves playing without six starters. Defenders DeAndre Yedlin (U.S.) and Kamal Miller (Canada) are with their national teams, which will meet tomorrow in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal match. Midfielders Gregore (Miami's captain) and Jean Mota, left back Franco Negri and forward Corentin Jean have missed multiple games with serious foot (Gregore) and knee injuries and aren't expected back anytime soon.

A year ago, the Pink and Black made a second-half run, finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference with 48 points and a 14-14-6 mark. With two MLS matches left before Messi & Co. play for Inter Miami, the Herons are 15th in the conference -- dead last -- with 17 points from 20 matches. They need to make up nine points in 14 games to catch Montreal, currently ninth and holding the final playoff position.

It's a daunting proposition, but not impossible. Last year, when seven teams from each conference made the MLS Cup tournament, Salt Lake squeaked in with 47 points in the Western Conference; Orlando and Miami each had 48 in the East. But if nine teams had a chance last year, as they do this year, Vancouver (43 points) and Charlotte (42) would have qualified for the playoffs.

So, realistically Miami needs to be around the 42-point mark to have a shot. Twenty-five points in 14 matches, or about 1.8 points per match. If La Rosanegra lose tonight and next week in St. Louis, though, that ask goes up to almost 2.1 points per match. It's critical that IMCF get results from these road matches to set the stage for any potential late season heroics.

D.C. United, one of the league's legacy clubs and a one-time MLS powerhouse, is seeking its first playoff berth since 2019. Coached by former England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney (who played for United in 2018 and 2019 and returned to coach the squad last season), the Eagles are in eighth in the East, with 29 points from 22 matches. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.