Inter Miami CF is on the upswing these days, but it wasn't long ago the club appeared to be bottoming out.
On July 21, Miami was thrashed at home by Eastern Conference-leading New England Revolution, 5-0, as the club fell to 2-8-2 on the year. But just four days later, a 1-1 draw against defending Supporters Shield-winning Philadelphia Union signaled a turnaround.
Ahead of Saturday's meeting with FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami's lost only once since the New England defeat and now finds itself in the thick of the MLS Cup playoff race in the East.
Miami's roster of deep, seasoned talent is 4-1-3 since losing to the Revolution. They'll look to continue that run of form against Cincinnati, which is winless since June 26 – a run of 11 matches without a victory.
At 3-9-8, FC Cincinnati is on the fraying edge of the playoff discussion but has publicly maintained its aim to end up in the playoff spots by season's end. Head coach Jaap Stam is hoping a result like Miami's July 25 tie against Philadelphia could help jump-start the playoff push.
"They’re in a good run. They’re in a good form as well as a team in how they played," Stam said during a Thursday news conference. "They played different the last games as well in terms of the system and how they’ve been playing it. They’ve changed that as well.
"It’s a team with quality, we all know that as well. You’ve seen that from the beginning of the (season) as well. They didn’t get the results but they still brought in good players, but the thing is that we play at home. We need to go forward as well. We need to get that result, so that’s what we’re working on."
Cincinnati players have noted their fondness for the 2016 Seattle Sounders, a team that went from the bottom of the league around the midseason mark that year to eventual MLS Cup champions.
That Seattle team signifies of the parity of MLS, and the volatility of the standings that many teams have used to their benefit over the years.
Miami's 2021 story is more of the same. Even as frustration sets in around the fan base as FC Cincinnati lags behind the playoff spots in the East by 13 points, Stam has remained insistent on seeking a similar turnaround.
With 14 matches to go on FCC's schedule, there's still a window of opportunity for FCC to go on a run.
"You see with games what can happen if you have (a) result, if you can have this win then it changes the whole dynamic of the team as well," Stam said. "You get into a rhythm, you get a different feeling and then things look easier at times as well, and that’s what happened to them as well. That’s why we always talk about ‘OK, can we get this win?' Can you have these extra two points or at least, because of that win, you can have a different feeling and then maybe you can get into a flow of games. Then it looks totally different."
Kickoff: 8 p.m. on Saturday at TQL Stadium
TV/Radio/stream: Star64/ESPN-AM (1530)/fccincinnati.com.
Series info: Inter Miami leads the all-time series against Cincinnati (2-0-0).
Cincinnati.com prediction: FC Cincinnati 2, Inter Miami CF 1.
Record: 3-9-8, 17 points; 13th in Eastern Conference
Goals for: 21
Goals against: 37
Coach: Jaap Stam – second season as FC Cincinnati head coach (7-24-12)
Projected starting lineup:
Kenneth Vermeer, GK
Edgar Castillo, left back
Gustavo Vallecilla, center back (left)
Geoff Cameron, center back (right)
Chris Duvall, right back
Yuya Kubo, midfielder
Luciano Acosta, midfielder
Florian Valot, midfielder
Allan Cruz, midfielder/winger
Alvaro Barreal, winger
Brenner Souza da Silva, forward
Inter Miami CF
Record: 6-9-5, 23 points; 11th in Eastern Conference
Goals for: 21
Goals against: 31
Coach: Phil Neville - first season as Miami head coach
Projected starting lineup:
Nick Marsman, GK
Christian Makoun, left back
Jorge Figal, center back
Leandro González Pírez, right back
Kieran Gibbs, wing back/midfielder
Blaise Matuidi, midfielder
Victor Ulloa, midfielder
Lewis Morgan, right back/midfielder
Robbie Robinson, forward
Rodolfo Pizarro, forward
Gonzalo Higuain, forward