If you would have told me in June that Inter Miami would be in a spot to advance in the Leagues Cup, I might have chuckled a bit.
At the time, the Herons were in the basement of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference with just five wins and little prospect of doing much better.
But a lot has changed in just two months and now Inter Miami is on the verge of the semifinals… they have to get through Charlotte FC.
Let’s get into it.
At Least Inter Miami’s First Match With Charlotte Won’t Be a Turf War
After signing Lionel Messi, there was some hubbub over other Major League Soccer teams converting their artificial turf pitches to natural grass… as Messi isn’t a fan of playing on the fake stuff.
Inter Miami vs. Charlotte FC
2023 Leagues Cup
DRV PNK Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
How to Watch
AppleTV MLS Season Pass
Last Three Matches
Inter Miami 3-2 Charlotte FC (July 16, 2022)
How Charlotte Advanced
W 2-2 over FC Dallas; W 4-1 over Necaxa; W 0-0 over Cruz Azul; W 2-1 over Houston Dynamo.
How Inter Miami Advanced
W 2-1 over Cruz Azul; W 4-0 over Atlanta United; W 3-1 over Orlando City; W 4-4 over FC Dallas.
Well, that won’t be a problem for their first match-up as the two teams will square off at 8:30 p.m. Friday at DRV PNK Stadium, where natural grass is already down.
The Crown is unbeaten in Leagues Cup play after cruising through group play — winning on penalties against FC Dallas.
Charlotte followed that up with a penalty shootout win over Cruz Azul in the knockout stage — remember Cruz Azul and our comeback win?
They came from behind to defeat Houston Dynamo — helped by an own-goal — earlier this week to earn a spot against Inter Miami in the quarterfinals.
Designated player Karol Swiderski leads Charlotte with seven goals across all competitions — including goals against Necaxa and FC Dallas in the tournament.
Charlotte is near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just six wins in 23 matches. And the side has a league goal differential of minus-10 (compared to Inter Miami’s minus-14).
The Crown has lost six matches away from Charlotte with just three wins to their league tally.
What Inter Miami Needs to Do to Win
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times… Inter Miami needs to improve on defense.
This was pretty evident at FC Dallas where the shaky defense allowed Dallas to gain a big, early lead.
If not for the heroics on offense for the Herons, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now as Inter would be prepping for MLS play and not the quarterfinals.
The bottom line here is Inter Miami needs to lock down its defense to stop the attacking pressure Charlotte is likely to bring.
On offense, if we learned anything from the Leagues Cup, scoring first is most beneficial.
Watching opponents clog the inside and allow the wings to work and draw that pressure out has been a strong game plan for Inter Miami manager Tata Martino and the Herons.
There’s no reason why it doesn’t work tonight against Charlotte.