Inter Miami take on New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Saturday aiming to become just the third side in Major League Soccer history to open a season with three straight shutout victories. We preview the game and reveal who our Opta predictor thinks will come out on top.
NYCFC vs Inter Miami: The Quick Hits
- Inter Miami may have made the stronger start to the season of the two sides, but the Opta Supercomputer favors New York City FC (58.9%) to pick up all three points this weekend.
- City has won 13 of its last 19 home matches in all competitions, including each of the past four.
- Only the LA Galaxy (in 2010) and Seattle Sounders (in 2009) have opened an MLS season with three successive wins without conceding.
New York City FC has won six of its previous seven meetings against Inter Miami, the most recent of those encounters coming in the first round of last season’s MLS Cup Playoffs when Nick Cushing’s side cruised to a 3-0 victory.
Gabriel Pereira and Maxi Moralez scored six minutes apart in the second half and Heber added a late third to seal the win for the reigning MLS Cup champions, though they tasted defeat against the Philadelphia Union in the conference final.
It was a familiar feeling for Inter Miami, which has lost all three of its away games at NYCFC, losing by an aggregate 7-0 scoreline – the other two fixtures finishing 2-0 in the Pigeons’ favor.
Phil Neville’s Inter did come out on top in the home regular-season encounter last time out, though, as second-half goals from Ariel Lassiter and Alejandro Pozuelo earned the club a 3-2 comeback win.
City certainly had home comforts last season as it won 10 regular-season matches on its own patch – only Los Angeles FC (13) and the Philadelphia Union (12) recorded more victories.
Inter did not fare so well on its travels in the 2022 campaign, winning just four of its 18 matches away from home, two of those coming in back-to-back outings prior to losing against New York in their playoff showdown.
NYCFC 3-0 Inter Miami (MLS Cup Playoffs)
Inter will be out for revenge on the back of its defeat at Citi Field five months ago, with that three-goal reverse bringing its campaign to an end – and the curtain down on Gonzalo Higuaín’s career, which had seen him play in spells with Real Madrid, Napoli, Juventus, Milan and Chelsea.
Both sides created chances in the first half without finding a goal, with City center back Thiago Martins going closest to making the breakthrough when crashing a header off the crossbar.
Aime Mabika was next to hit the frame of the goal – albeit his own when clearing Heber’s chip off the line – and Christopher McVey sliced an attempted clearance off his own post.
New York’s tally of 16 shots to Miami’s four in the first half marked the biggest difference in the opening 45 minutes of a playoff tie since 2011, but that pressure would ultimately tell in the second half.
Pereira curled in his ninth goal of the season and Moralez drilled home a quickfire second at the end of a flowing move, before Heber slotted in at the second attempt to set up a meeting with CF Montreal in the next round.
City’s dominance was reflected in its expected goals return of 2.9, compared to 0.6 for Inter Miami, who had 12 shots to their opponents’ 27 come full time.
Inter, reportedly hoping to persuade Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi to make the move to the U.S. as David Beckham looks to add more stardust to the franchise he co-owns, has started the season by seeing off CF Montreal and Philadelphia Union by the same 2-0 scoreline.
The club joins the New England Revolution at the top of the Eastern Conference standings as the only sides with perfect records so far, and one of four teams overall in MLS to have won two from two.
It marks the best start the Herons have made to a season in what is their fourth campaign in Major League Soccer, with the aim for Neville and his men to improve on last season’s sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference standings.
Neville has opted for the same starting lineup across both games so far, led by Josef Martínez up top. Landing 2018 Golden Boot winner Martínez was a big acquisition for Inter, but the Venezuela international has yet to find the net, while Inter has also had to cope without injured forward Leo Campana.
Instead, the goals have been shared between Sergii Kryvtsov, Shanyder Borgelin, Corentin Jean and Robert Taylor, while four different players have claimed an assist.
As for Cushing’s side, the 2021 MLS Cup winners, they followed up a disappointing 2-0 loss at Nashville SC on the opening weekend with a 1-1 draw away to the Chicago Fire.
Pereira opened the scoring for NYCFC at Soldier Field in the 39th minute of that most recent outing, but the Fire snatched a point through Fabian Herbers’ deflected 75th-minute strike.
Cushing will take comfort from the fact his side are playing on home soil for the first time this season against Inter, with City having won six of its past eight MLS home openers.
Players To Watch
New York City FC: Gabriel Pereira
Pereira was the man who scored City’s deserved breakthrough goal in the most recent match against Inter Miami, and the Brazilian is also the only NYCFC player to score so far this campaign.
There is certainly a South American feel to the Pigeons’ attack, with 44 of their past 45 MLS goals (excluding own goals) being scored by players from that continent, including each of the past 19.
Pereira scored nine goals in 29 league appearances in 2022 – an overperformance from his xG of 4.75 – while also chipping in with three assists. The former Corinthians winger will be looking to better both of those tallies this campaign.
Others, including Talles Magno, will also need to step up in the post-Maxi Moralez era, and the return of midfielder Santiago Rodriguez will go a long way to helping provide more creativity in the final third.
Inter Miami CF: Josef Martínez
Martinez arrived at Inter Miami in the offseason boasting a résumé that includes an MLS Cup, an MVP award, an MLS Golden Boot and also the U.S. Open Cup, all of those coming during his successful spell with Atlanta United. It was a signing that raised many an eyebrow.
While Miami has impressed early on, its star acquisition has attempted just two shots in his first two starts and has failed to find the target from either of those.
Should Neville be worried? Martínez only failed to register a shot on target in successive starts on two occasions in his previous six seasons in Major League Soccer, doing so in May-July 2021 and September 2018.
New York City FC vs Inter Miami CF Prediction
NYCFC may have made a slow start to the season, taking just one point from six on offer, but being back on home soil against Inter – with D.C. United set to follow next weekend – provides a chance to kickstart its season.
Our prediction model has given the hosts a 58.9% chance of victory, compared to 16.9% for Inter Miami. A draw is given a 24.2% likelihood of happening.
Momentum plays a huge factor in sport, though, and Neville’s side make the trip to Yankee Stadium with a spring in its step as it looks to prolong the club’s best start to a season and remain at the top of the league table.
If Miami is to do that and come away with victory, it will need to score its first goal away at NYCFC in its fourth visit. Having a motivated Martínez up top will certainly help in that regard.