When FC Cincinnati faces visiting Inter Miami CF on Saturday night, the hosts hope to finally end an eight-game winless run at their new stadium.
Cincinnati (3-9-8, 17 points) is the rare MLS team that performs worse at home than away, losing their first three games at the brand new TQL Stadium before playing to a tie the next five.
Cincinnati lost 3-2 to Miami (6-9-5, 23 points) in the stadium opener on May 16 in a game that has felt like many it has played this season: The club fell behind early, fought back to level the match, then were beaten on Gonzalo Higuain’s late winner.
Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam believes Saturday’s game against another team below the playoff line could be equally as difficult as the last two, away losses at Supporters’ Shield-leading New England and defending MLS Cup champion Columbus.
“Sometimes when you play with teams that are maybe around yourself as a team that it doesn’t make it easier at times,” Stam said of playing Miami, which is two places above his 13th-place side in the Eastern Conference standings. “Sometimes, these games are even more difficult.”
Despite playing within the international window, Stam will have most of his squad available, including top offensive producer Luciano Acosta (four goals, six assists). Fullback Ronald Matarrita is the lone call-up, playing with Costa Rica’s national team in World Cup qualifying.
Miami enters in much better position to make a late playoff run, with only seven points separating the club from the East playoff line. Miami also has two matches in hand on the teams currently holding the final three East qualifiers.
The club is playing well, winning back-to-back home games before earning a scoreless tie at Orlando last weekend.
Miami visits without Rodolfo Pizarro, who has scored three of the team’s last four goals and earned a call-up to the Mexico national team.
Inter Miami coach Phil Neville has taken a different view than Stam, seeing the upcoming game as a potential jumpstart to a late-season playoff push. It is the first of four in a row against clubs currently beneath the playoff line.
“We’ve got a little run of games now where we feel as if we can really, really make a big impact into the season,” Neville said. “And every single player needs to be ready for that and for the challenge ahead.”
–Field Level Media