Inter Miami went five weeks without a loss, so coaches and players had almost forgotten what it felt like to leave a stadium in a bad mood.
They got a rude reminder last Friday night, losing 4-0 at home to the New York Red Bulls in a game where just about everything went wrong for Miami. They saw their club-record six-game undefeated streak come to a halt and fell two spots behind the playoff line with 10 games remaining.
“We took a hit nobody in or out of the club expected and the score line hit us hard,” Inter Miami coach Phil Neville said. “When you haven’t had that feeling of defeat in a while, it hurts you a lot. But I saw the eye of the tiger back in the team Monday. We took many steps forward the last two months, but we just took a little step back the other night. We need to reset and go again.”
The team aims to rebound — and quiet the skeptics — Wednesday night at home against Nashville SC (7:30 p.m., My33, CW34), which is in second place in the Eastern Conference and will be equally motivated coming off a humbling 2-1 loss to last-place Toronto.
“We will really be tested in a game where we want to bounce back and get back to the place we want to be,” Neville said. “We were really, really disappointed [after the Red Bulls loss]. It took the team a couple of days to get it out of our system – they were frustrated and angry. Hopefully it was just a blip, a minor bump in the road, and now we need to go on another run like we did the previous 10 games.”
During the past 12 games, Inter Miami has seven wins, three ties and two losses. The team racked up 24 points in the standings during that stretch and sits in ninth place with 32 points. The top seven make the playoffs. Philadelphia currently holds the seventh spot with 35 points. Just seven points separates third place from 10th.
After Wednesday, Inter Miami plays four games in a row on the road and doesn’t play again at home until Oct. 20.
Miami and Nashville are meeting for the third time this season. Miami won 2-1 at DRV PNK Stadium on Aug. 8 after Gonzalo Higuaín scored the equalizer and Indiana Vassilev nailed the game winner five minutes into stoppage time. They played to a scoreless tie at Nissan Stadium on May 2.
Miami will be without two of three starters on the back line – Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Nico Figal. Both are suspended. Figal got a red card against New York, and Pirez is out for accumulation of yellows. Kieran Gibbs returns from injury, so that should help, but Neville said he may have to adjust the formation to make best use of the few defenders available.
“We’ve only got one fit center back, so we need to look at the system and make sure we get the right players in the right positions – don’t want to put square pegs in round holes,” he said. “Sometimes that means the system changes. We’d love to continue the three in back system, the players are comfortable with it, but we haven’t got three center backs that can play.”
Captain Gregore said he is willing to shift back from defensive mid to the back line if need be.
“Nico and Leandro are two very important players, and I don’t know how (Neville) will deal with that, but we have good players who are capable of stepping in,” Gregore said. “Nothing is easy in this league.”
Miami came out flat against New York. Neville said players should be rested and energized on Wednesday.
“We have to fight against the second-best team in the league in Nashville, who are a brilliantly coached team,” he said. “I love their manager [Gary Smith]. I’m a massive fan. His teams have the characteristics of teams that are going to be successful and consistent. The reality is we had (the chance for) a nine-point week last week and we only got six points. It’s not a disaster. Just a bump in the road. We have to bounce back quickly.”