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Compared to how they performed three weeks ago against the same opponent, Inter Miami CF’s showing against D.C. United was a step in the right direction coming off the international break.
But their road loss to D.C. United on Saturday night at Audi Field showed there are plenty of improvements Miami can make, particularly in the attack.
Inter Miami played with greater effort against D.C. United than they did 21 days ago in their blowout home loss to D.C. in which they allowed two goals in the opening 25 minutes, but their 1-0 loss on Saturday in the nation’s capital showcased the attacking woes they’ve been dealing with for most of the season.
Inter Miami finished Saturday’s match with only one shot on target and rarely tested D.C. United (4-5-0, 12 points) goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Ola Kamara scored the lone goal of the match for D.C. United on a penalty kick in the 72nd minute while Inter Miami were playing short-handed due to Gregore receiving his second yellow card of the night and being disqualified from the game in the second half.
Twelve minutes later, Ryan Shawcross was given a red card and sent off the field for wrapping his arms around D.C. defender Joseph Mora’s neck during a challenge for the ball, forcing Inter Miami to finish the match with nine players on the field.
Inter Miami (2-5-2, eight points) didn’t overcome the numbers game, dropping their third match in a row on Saturday after being held scoreless for the fourth time in their last five games, with coach Phil Neville criticizing the referee’s disciplinary decisions.
“I’ve got to be really careful here because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like I saw on that football field tonight in terms some of the [referee] decisions I saw,” Neville said. “The two sendings offs weren’t sendings offs and the penalty wasn’t a penalty.
“It’s not the first time, so I suppose this is normal. I think what we’ve learned since the start of the season — again I’ll be careful with my words — we’ve got to use everything that’s being thrown at us as a football club and as a set of players out on the field as part of our motivation to do well. It’s going to be like that for Inter Miami as a football club.”
Neville added that players were “frustrated” and “fuming” due to the referee’s decisions.
“I try to be really positive about referees as a manager, but some of the things I’m seeing are a major, major worry for this league,” he said. “Unfortunately, my players have suffered [Saturday] because they give everything. I can’t say anything positive other than that.”
D.C. United were the more dangerous team in the attack throughout the entire match, finishing with 13 shots compared to Inter Miami’s seven and possessing the ball for 67.9 percent of the game, but missed clear-cut scoring opportunities in front of Miami’s goal early in the matchup that led to a scoreless game entering halftime.
Inter Miami’s best scoring opportunity came in the 46th minute when Brek Shea had a one-on-one scoring chance against Hamid, but Hamid made the save.
Gregore received his first yellow card in the 47th minute for a foul against Paul Arriola.
Inter Miami, who entered Saturday with the most yellow cards for a team in MLS with 20, were given five yellows on Saturday.
Gregore received his second yellow card in the 56th minute and was sent off the field for his tackle attempt against Kevin Paredes, forcing Inter Miami to play with 10 players for most of the second half.
Christian Makoun, who made his second start of the season on Saturday, was called for a handball when Brendan Daniel Hines-Ike’s header from the right side of the six-yard box hit Makoun’s arm, awarding D.C. United with a penalty kick that Kamara converted.
“I don’t want to talk about the referee. He was terrible,” Leandro Gonzalez Pirez said. “In Makoun’s penalty, he wasn’t watching the ball and was doing the natural movement trying to jump and going back. For me, that’s not a penalty. Same in the red card for Gregore. It’s frustrating, but we have to change the page and move forward.”
Miami’s starting lineup against D.C. United was: John McCarthy, Nico Figal, Shawcross, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Makoun; Gregore, Blaise Matuidi; Lewis Morgan, Jay Chapman, Brek Shea; Julian Carranza.
Gonzalo Higuaín didn’t travel with Inter Miami for Saturday’s match and “stayed back [in South Florida] working on his fitness,” according to a club spokesperson.
“The decision with Gonzalo was an easy one,” Neville said. “We’ve been working hard as a team the last three weeks. He’s missed quite a few days, so we just wanted to make sure he got back to 100 percent fitness.
“He’s happy with that decision, we talked and so there’s no problems. It’s not a big thing.”
Despite the result, Neville was proud of the effort and togetherness Inter Miami played with against D.C. United.
“Even when we went down to nine men,” Neville said, “we had a team that was on the field that was 100 percent committed to the Inter Miami badge and that’s why I was super proud of them.”
Inter Miami will face off against in-state rival Orlando City on Friday at DRV PNK Stadium.
Gregore and Shawcross are expected to suspended for the match, with Neville saying Inter Miam planned to appeal Shawcross’ red card with the hopes of having it overturned.