The Columbus Crew returns to action Ton uesday night after a disappointing tie on the road to CF Montreal last Friday. Despite being up 2-0 late in the game, the Black & Gold settled for a 2-2 draw after conceding two late goals.
Columbus now travels to Florida to face an Inter Miami side trying to stay alive for the MLS Cup playoffs. The Crew is also in the thick of the playoff hunt and needs to take as many points as possible from the team’s five remaining matches. A win on Tuesday would see the Black & Gold jump to fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s what to look for during this midweek matchup.
Inter Miami at a glance:
League Form: L-L-L-W-W
Record: 10-6-13 (36 Points)
Leading Scorer: Gonzalo Higuain (10 goals)
Assist Leader: Alejandro Pozuelo (6 assists)
Players to watch: Gonzalo Higuain & Alejandro Pozuelo
Miami also has a quick turnaround for this match after playing Saturday against the Chicago Fire, so there may be some player rotation here. Regardless, there’s a good chance that the Crew will see at least one of these players on Tuesday. Black & Gold fans are familiar with Gonzalo Higuain and the quality he provides.
His connections to Columbus aside, Higuain has proven his quality time and time again, both in MLS and in Europe. Crew fans will remember how close he came to scoring the last time out against Inter and how that chance came from virtually nothing. The Black & Gold will need to be well aware of Higuain for the entirety of the match to earn three points.
Columbus fans are also familiar with Alejandro Pozuelo thanks to his time with Toronto FC. Pozuelo, a former league MVP, joined Miami this year and has hit the ground running. With six goals and six assists, Pozuelo is the main creative force for Inter. Usually operating in the central attacking midfield role, Pozuelo’s dynamic movement, on-ball ability and passing vision make him a key player for Columbus to stop in this match.
How Inter Miami plays
Miami coach Gary Neville has improved his team quite a bit in 2022. After a lackluster first season, Inter is in the playoff hunt.
Neville prefers to line his team up in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation, but has also employed 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 formations this year. When in these formations, Miami typically focuses on a few things tactically.
First, when in possession, Inter often looks to quickly progress the ball forward via different passing patterns and combinations. Essentially, Miami wants to progress the ball forward as quickly as possible, often via quick, short passes. That being said, if there is time and space for a long, direct diagonal ball, Inter won’t hesitate to play it. This style in possession lends itself to effective counter attacks, but also the ability to quickly pounce once the team pulls its opponent’s backline out of its defensive shape.
Defensively, Miami often employs a high defensive line but often lacks intense defensive pressure up the field. Inter will keep a high line to try and limit the space that the opponent has to play in. However, the team doesn’t always apply intense pressure to the ball high up the field. At times this season, this has caused major issues for teams who have been able to play through these defensive lines and attack Miami’s backline far away from their goal.
How the Crew can win:
The Crew is unbeaten in the team’s last seven matches but only has two wins in that span. After a disappointing tie on Friday, the Black & Gold can go a long way towards an MLS Cup playoff berth with three points in this game. Here are a few things for the Black & Gold to focus on tonight.
In the previous matchup with Miami, Columbus did an excellent job of controlling the match. Despite a near 50/50 split of possession, the Crew managed to have a higher Expected Goals tally, more shots, shots on goal and controlled the flow of the match really well. The Black & Gold will need to do the same on Tuesday.
As mentioned, Miami looks to spring their attacks quickly before the opponent can set up defensively. This tactic can be difficult for possession-based teams like Columbus to overcome as Inter often pushes forward numbers into the attack and leave themselves vulnerable in the back. It can also cause a lack of rhythm in possession as turnovers can quickly turn into attacks for their opponents.
Thus, the Crew needs to control the flow of the match by being sharp in possession and limiting turnovers. In addition, the Black & Gold need to be sharp in the counter-press and quickly apply pressure when losing the ball. This will help them slow down the Miami attack as well as win the ball back quickly to keep applying pressure to the Inter defense.