Are Inter Miami the most annoying team in MLS?
By Chris Deeley
No, don't click away! This isn't a hit piece! Whatever your thoughts on the branding, the ownership group, the...Phil Neville, this isn't about that.
We good? You sat down again? Moved away from the 'close tab' button? Good. Now lemme throw some numbers at you.
In MLS last season, some quick napkin maths puts the average red cards per game at about 0.15. That means, in other terms, that you'll probably see a red card about once every seven games. Exciting! Red cards are action, they change games, it means something happens and it'll probably make something more happen.
But, erm. In MLS and US Open Cup play this year, Inter Miami games average a red card every 0.54 games. If you've been to watch the Herons this year, there's as good as chance as not that you've seen someone sent for an early bath.
Inter Miami are on a historic pace for red cards this season
So...what the heck? Neville's tenure as England women's manager didn't hint at an overly feisty approach, but even last season the club had the third worst disciplinary record in the league. Inter don't particularly seem like a dirty team, as such.
The simple answer, and one that could be true, is that it's a club leaning into the stereotype of – put bluntly – a bad team making up for their shortcomings by running around and kicking people. Just look at England, where relegation-threatened Leeds just set a record for bookings in a Premier League season and Everton (one place above them) are leading the league in red cards.
But honestly, not even that really rings true. Why? Because in the two US Open Cup games that Miami have played against outmatched opponents, there have been three reds! Two of them for Neville's side!
That's the other thing here, it's not always Miami who are getting into these scrapes. They're responsible for five of the seven red cards they've seen this season, but to have two against them in 13 games is still about double what you'd expect to see in that time.
Maybe this is all small sample size stuff and opponents' red card levels will fall back to the mean over the course of the season, but let's say for the sake of argument that this isn't just 'Inter Miami are dirty'. Let's imagine these trends sustain, if a little diluted.
Could it be that Inter are just a really annoying team? That's a serious question. Lots of little fouls, time-wasting and the like can all add up to put an opponent on edge, 90 minutes of chipping away at the other team until something snaps and someone gets a second yellow card.
Maybe it'll level out. Maybe we'll never know the answer. Or maybe, Inter Miami are the most annoying team in MLS.