Three Up, Three Down: Inter Miami 2, New York Red Bulls 0

The Herons snapped an 11-game Major League Soccer winless streak with a 2-0 win against the New York Red Bulls. Inter Heron picks three stars and three underperformers from the match in this installment of Three Up, Three Down.

Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi accepts his game jersey Saturday after warming up to enter his first MLS regular season match.
Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi accepts his game jersey Saturday after warming up to enter his first MLS regular season match. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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Three Up +

Gerardo Martino (A+)

[KEN] Surprised? We did talk about grading the manager's performance as part of this feature -- did we decide anything about that? Anyway, I'm exercising a little co-site expert prerogative here to give Tata some credit.

The veteran coach handled the days leading up to this match masterfully. So well did he bluff his plans for Messi that the superstar's sitting had become a major storyline. Nobody expected Martino to start the greatest player of this generation -- his body was "reaching its physical limits," according to Tata -- and I don't think many expected him to play 30-plus minutes.

Gerardo Martino
Inter Miami CF head coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino during the Herons' MLS match at New York Red Bulls Saturday. / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

Martino managed to give Messi some much-needed rest and still wow the fans at Red Bull Arena with a fair dose of the maestro's magic -- at least a memorable goal. Here's Martino's quote as reported in the Miami Herald:

"I understand the desire of the people who want him to play, this will happen everywhere we go. But as the coach, I cannot be guided by those fans’ desires. My job is to make sure Leo takes care of himself."

Inter Miami coach Tata Martino

And not least importantly, Tata started the South American trio of young talent acquired this summer but largely overshadowed by the signings of Messi and his former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. Gomez, 20, and Argentinians Tomas Aviles, 19, a defender, and Facundo Farias, 20, a forward.

The makeshift starting 11, in a 5-2-2-1 formation, looked calm, confident and poised, more than holding its own against New York's side. That shows me two things -- the players understand their roles and what's expected of them, and Martino isn't afraid to experiment (the Herons have played primarily a 4-3-3 since Martino took over from Phil Neville.)

With all due respect to Neville, whom I've often defended here at Inter Heron and on social media, it's becoming clear there is a vast chasm separating Neville's quality and Martinez'. I look forward to continuing learning.

[MATT] Yeah, I can live with this. I really like the idea of Martino starting Aviles and Farias in this match. I know there was a lot of speculation on whether Messi would play a little, if at all, against New York.

I thought it was great for Martino to give the younger players a chance at the spotlight on the biggest media stage in the country in New York.

Martino's tactics took me back to when he led Atlanta United in their heyday. Mixing things up, confusing defenses and keeping opponents on their toes -- all without starting Messi, Busquets or Alba was a bold move that could have backfired but didn't.

Unlike Ken, I'm not a defender of Phil Neville, or his tactics. Yes, he guided Inter Miami to the playoffs last year, but this year's start was a disaster, in part due to the fact that Neville really could not adjust his play style. Martino, on the other hand, has shown, he can.