By Official Florida FC
The mission was simple. Beat the worst team in Major League Soccer. Inter Miami accomplished that and earned a berth to the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs as a result.
The Herons (7-13-3, 24 points) claimed the final berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs via a 2-1 win oveer FC Cincinnati on a soggy Sunday afternoon at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
Mikey Ambrose opened the scoring with a golazo in the 19th minute. The 27-year-old fullback picked an ideal time to score his first MLS goal.
“To get into the playoffs feels so good for everybody,” Ambrose told reporters afterward. “The whole team has been working, fighting and dealing with a lot of stuff. It feels very good for all of us to make it in.”
Later, Lewis Morgan furthered his claim for Inter Miami’s Player of the Season after another stellar performance on the right wing in the Herons’ 4-3-3 system. His set pieces created chances for teammates and his 23rd minute corner kick was headed home by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to give Inter Miami a 2-0 lead.
Tampa native, Joe Gyau scored Cincinnati’s goal in the 66th minute. But, even his incicive runs could not rouse the worst attack in MLS into an equalizer.
Inter Miami handled its business; however, its berth was not secured until results elsewhere went in its favor.
The Chicago Fire twice recovered from a two-goal deficit against NYCFC; but, a monumental mistake in the back in the 77th minute doused any hopes the Fire had of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2017. Chicago’s loss gift-wrapped a playoff berth for the Herons in their inaugural season.
Inter Miami is the 15th team in Major League Soccer history to make the MLS Cup playoffs in its inaugural season. Eight of those made the postseason in the league’s first season. To date, only the Fire have won MLS Cup in its first season in the league.
Injuries, trades and acquisitions helped Inter Miami look far more dynamic than the team that took the pitch at Banc of California Stadium in February.
Only three players who started the season against LAFC, Rodolfo Pizaro, Lewis Morgan and Wil Trapp, were in the starting XI on Sunday afternoon.
“I think that we’ve gone from less to more. We started out losing five straight matches and from there the team started to grow, and as players like Leandro González Pirez, [Blaise] Matuidi and [Gonzalo] Higuaín arrived the team began to improve. It’s a different team today than it was in March and that gives us peace and security,” he said. “We don’t have anything to lose in the playoffs. We came from behind with nothing to lose, a lot to win, and a lot of ambition. We like being in this position and we’re preparing to make history.”
Pizzaro went from being the only attacking option in the springtime to one of many cogs in the Herons attack.
Morgan has proven energetic on the wing and a set-piece architect. World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi has added dynamism and accurate passing at the base of midfield. Gonzalo Higuain has, what Inter Miami broadcaster Ray Hudson likes to call, “class in a glass” and led the line since his arrival from Serie A. Gonzalez Pirez helped Atlanta United win three trophies in three years and proven a stabilizing presence in central defense. Gonzalez Pirez scored three goals in 95 MLS appearances for Atlanta United. Both is goals this season were match-winners.
Inter Miami will play another playoff debutant in the MLS Cup playoffs. The Herons travel to Nashville on Nov. 20 in a Play-in match.
Nashville produced a result in both meetings, winning 1-0 in the Music City on Aug. 30 and a scoreless draw on Sept. 6.
“We feel excited. It’s been a really difficult year with everything that’s happened and I think that we have pushed forward a lot,” Alonso said. “Today we got the reward that we were looking for and we’re in the playoffs. It’s a huge step for us, I’m very happy for the players and everything they gave,” highlighted manager Diego Alonso after the transcendental victory.