FROM STEVE BRENNER AT THE BANC OF CALIFORNIA STADIUM
It went, for the most part, as expected. Inter Miami owner David Beckham looked resplendent in a dashing Ralph Lauren suit with a club crest taking pride of place on his blazer.
The former England captain’s wife Victoria and son Brooklyn arrived to offer moral support while celebrity chef, and, lest you forget, former player Gordon Ramsay also appeared in the posh seats. Whether he was cheering on Major League Soccer’s latest team or serving up some post-match roast chicken was unclear.
Meanwhile, perched high in the Banc of California Stadium were a small, hardy group of all-dancing, all-singing Floridians making the most of a moment which has been six agonizing years in the making.
Carlos Vela’s match-winning goal for Los Angeles FC just before half-time certainly had a touch of inevitability about it, even if the chip which looped past the despairing hand of Miami keeper Luis Robles was of the highest order.
What, however, took many by surprise was the competitiveness and ability of Beckham’s new charges to go toe-to-toe with a team who were arguably the best in the league last season. This was Miami’s first competitive match. Only two friendlies and some behind closed doors scrimmages preceded it so perspective is valuable when assessing the team’s chances of success this season.
“The weeks that we’ve been together, that chemistry aspect isn’t always there,” admitted USA international Wil Trapp. “I think the more we train together, the more we’re able to be on the field together, you’ll strengthen those ties.”
While Bob Bradley, the LAFC coach, has kept the nucleus of the team which won the Supporters Shield last year, Inter Miami’s Diego Alonso has only been working with his players for two months.
For every raw, 19 year-old talent like Matías Pellegrini, Alonso at least has experience in the way of Robles, Trapp and the 25 year-old central defender Nicolás Figal, who was excellent.
Yet despite star imports Pellegrini and Mexican $12m midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro taking a while to adjust to the task in hand, once they began to get to grips with proceedings, Miami looked far brighter.
On another day, Robbie Robinson, a 21 year-old striker who last year was turning out for Clemson University, might have been able to pocket the chances which fell his way. Scoring goals at college – he found the net 18 times in 19 matches in 2019 – is one thing. Producing the same level of performance in the professional game, however, is completely different.
Robinson’s effort wasn’t enough here to make a real difference which, in turn, says much about a current lack of attacking depth which Alonso, and the club’s front office, need to address. More strike options are required.
“It was my first game, I learned a lot and so did the team,” said Robinson. “If I can take things from this game and make them work in the future, that will help us be a success.”
A point would have been celebrated like three but even though this was a defeat, Inter Miami will move onto the task of DC United next weekend aiming to build on what was achieved here.
“For the most part it was a good performance from us,” added Robinson. “We had chances but just weren’t able to finish. That was the game. We felt we should have got a draw. We matched them physically, the manager wanted us to press them up high to win the ball up the field so we get more chances.”
If LAFC had converted their possession into goals, heads would have dropped and the doubts, of which there were many in the build up, would have intensified. Instead, there is still a spring in Miami steps.
“We had several very clear chances to get ahead on the scoreboard. It was the same after going 1-0 down as we pushed to get an equalizer,” added Alonso. “Surely we have to improve in football, but with this heart and with this intensity with which the team plays, we will surely win many games. With only six weeks of work and against maybe the best team in the league we gave a tremendous picture of what we can become.”