The good? Drake Callender was spectacular in Saturday's 1-0 loss to FC Dallas at DRV PNK Stadium. The Inter Miami keeper blocked seven of eight shots on target. Unfortunately, the one that got through was enough to hand the Herons their fifth-straight loss.
The bad? Everything else. Last year's breakout star, Leo Campana, got the start after missing the first six matches with an injured calf -- OK, that is undeniably good. The Herons signed Campana to a designated player contract and acquired former Atlanta United star and MLS MVP Josef Martinez in the offseason. Coach Phil Neville spent all preseason installing a two-striker attack to feature their (hopefully) complementary skills.
The Dallas match was the first opportunity to see that offense in action but, while it was good to see No. 9 back on the pitch, the offense didn't look any better. Massive, pointless possession (more than 80 percent). I get it, the opposition can't score if it doesn't have the ball. But La RosaNegra can't win if they can't score!
The strategy seems to be "Get the ball to our wingers out wide and let them try to make something happen." What usually happens? A cross played across the box to nobody in particular, or behind anyone in Pink making a run, or back to the midfield. It isn't working.
It's time to stop making excuses for Josef Martinez; his work rate was better against Dallas, but he remains a nonfactor. For the first time in his MLS career, he's gone five straight starts without finding the net (he missed the match against Chicago while away on international duty for Venezuela -- he scored for his national team, so he hasn't forgotten how.) I never have expected Martinez to be the dynamic scoring machine he was five years ago, but I believe he can be a 12-15 goal scorer for Inter Miami -- if he sets his mind to the task, and if Neville can figure out how to get him the ball in scoring situations.
Speaking of the Fizzer -- believe me, many fans are and it isn't polite -- Neville needs to mix things up. He's proven to be obsessively loyal to his preconceived notions. After five straight losses (the team record is six, under Neville in 2021) he needs to make dramatic changes in formation, tactics, personnel...I don't pretend to understand the nuances of coaching soccer but, with six goals in seven matches, I can tell our attack isn't scaring anybody.
Neville showed courage last year, benching an out-of-shape and sulking Gonzalo Higuain and starting Campana; the team responded immediately and, eventually, so did Higuain. The Herons made the playoffs and Pipa earned Comeback Player of the Year.
It's time for that type of dramatic change. Most observers believe this squad is more talented than the rag-tag bunch that finished sixth in the conference and made the playoffs. Bench Martinez; start Shanyder Borgelin. Start Ari Lassiter. Start Harvey Neville. At this point, bench everybody!
Except Callender. He's the best we've got right now.