New Inter Miami boss Tata Martino on 3-0 loss to St. Louis City: ‘We should play games without goals’

The Herons allowed three set-piece goals and continued struggling to create and convert chances, reminding everyone that — despite tonight’s much-hyped ’Unveiling’ and the global buzz surrounding Lionel Messi’s arrival in Major League Soccer — Inter Miami is a team in transition.

Inter Miami defender Ian Fray (24) kicks the ball past St. Louis midfielder Jared Stroud (8) under the watchful eyes of new Miami coach Tata Martino.
Inter Miami defender Ian Fray (24) kicks the ball past St. Louis midfielder Jared Stroud (8) under the watchful eyes of new Miami coach Tata Martino. / Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The conductor may have changed but, in the last match of the “Before Messi” era of Inter Miami soccer, the song remains the same.

The Herons, who have played most of this season missing multiple would-be starters, lost 3-0 Saturday to Western Conference-leading St. Louis City at CITYPARK Field. La Rosanegra have gone 11 matches without a win and have just 18 points from 22 matches (5-14-3). The Herons are last in the East and 12 points out of the final playoff spot with 12 matches remaining.

New IMCF field boss Gerardo “Tata” Martino coached the injury-riddled, inexperienced squad for the first time. The Herons came out in a flexible 4-3-3 and immediately showed a more aggressive, direct posture, pressing defensively and pushing forward with long, attacking runs and passes.

By contrast, fans had become accustomed to playing from the outside in under former head coach Phil Neville, watching as trip after trip into the attacking third ended with a cross from either corner — with incredible predictability and very little success.

Interim head coach Javi Morales improved the Herons’ attack through the middle, creating better chances with quick, short passes meant to isolate strikers Josef Martinez or Leo Campana, but the squad remained conservative (and managed draws in the final three matches under Morales, who remains on Martino’s staff).

Set pieces and a lack of quality in the final third — season-long woes — again crippled Inter Miami at St. Louis. In his post-match remarks, Martino said he thought the young Herons played well “between the areas.”

“Going forward, we are a team that should play games without goals, without our goal and without the opponents’ (goal),” he quipped.

St. Louis, an MLS expansion side, has 41 points. It’s first two goals Saturday came after corner kicks; Samuel Adeniran was unmarked and easily headed a cross from former Heron Indiana Vassilev down past Miami keeper Drake Callender in the 28th minute. Tim Parker headed in St. Louis’ second goal from an Ariel Jackson cross after a 40th-minute corner was played.

Eduard Lowen sent a perfectly paced and perfectly placed bending free kick just over Callender’s outstretched fingertips in the 80th minute, ending any remaining doubts about the match’s outcome.

Inter Miami again was without team captain Gregore, a defensive midfielder who suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot in the club’s third match and isn’t expected to play until September. Gregore’s lieutenant in the defensive midfield, Jean Mota; wing Franco Negri; and forward Corentin Jean all are out with knee injuries. Defenders Kamal Miller (Canada) and Deandre Yedlin (U.S.) were back from international duty, but neither played the full match.

Homegrown players Noah Allen, Benjamin Cremaschi and Ian Fray again started for Inter Miami, and Lawson Sunderland, ac21-year-old midfielder, made his first MLS start. The Pink & Black also were without veteran midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, whose contract Inter Miami terminated in order to sign Messi and former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets, who is expected to be introduced along with Messi during tonight’s celebration at DRV PNK Stadium.