As Will Smith once said, “welcome to Miami.” On a balmy Saturday night in south Florida Inter Miami FC, the Herons, welcomed Sporting Kansas City to DRV PNK Stadium for a massive match for both teams’ playoff hopes.
The early minutes of the match were largely a feeling out process for both teams. Each probing for weaknesses and looking to trigger an opportunistic press.
The visitors struck first in the 10th minute. Felipe Gutierrez launched a hopeful shot from distance and Miami keeper, Drake Callender, who had delayed a USMNT call up to play in this match, spilled the ball. Daniel Salloi was channeling his inner Chris Wondolowski and poached the loose ball for an easy goal and a 1-0 lead.
Always be ready for a rebound ☝️
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) September 9, 2023
The lead wouldn’t last. In the 25th minute, Miami lofted a ball into the box for Leo Campana. Campana won the ball but was cleared out by Tim Melia. Referee, Ismail Elfath, didn’t hesitate to call for a penalty kick and Sporting hardly protested. Campana took the ensuing kick from the spot and calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net to level the match.
Beckham FC went looking for a second penalty kick in the 30 minute when Aviles went down in the box. Elfath waved play on over Miami protests but replays show that he got the call right. Dany Rosero won a loose ball and the contact with Aviles was somewhere between non-existent and minimal.
The first yellow card of the match was shown to Felipe Gutierrez for “not retreating.” The foul occurred outside the frame of the camera but I’m fairly certain that Felipe and Elfath began arguing at Pitbull. I’m an amateur lip reader but I belief Elfath was shown saying, “He is Mr. 305.” Where Felipe then responded, “No, he’s Mr. Worldwide.” Regardless, the action was enough to earn the Sporting midfield a reprimand and a caution in the 33rd minute of the match.
In the 39th minute, Erik Thommy stole an errant pass in the midfield and played a beautiful 1-2 to get open and drive forward at the Miami defense. He eventually found Alan Pulido at the top of the box but Miami was able to recover and knocked the ball out for a SKC corner. The ensuing corner led to some dangerous play for Sporting. Callender again spilled a ball and Daniel Salloi was inches away from capitalizing again.
A Sporting turnover deep in their half led to another Miami half chance in the 43rd minute but Farias’ shot from deep was launched his shot well wide of goal.
Miami took the lead in the 45th minute after Deandre Yedlin launched a cross to the back post. Leo Campana secured his brace by rising up and outjumping Jake Davis at the back post. He headed the ball down and back across goal, leaving Tim Melia no chance to make a save.
So, as some of you may know, I went to law school in Miami. I know Miami sports and have followed Beckham FC since the team was announced a decade ago. I’d like to take this brief interlude to point out that the league bent and broke every rule to allow Miami to get Messi and his friends and they STILL have empty seats in the stands. I’d also like to give a big shout out to my guys Danny and Kris from the Battered Herons podcast and the Battered Sports network. They were kind enough to have me as a guest in the lead up to the match and were great guys who make a terrific show. Back to your regularly scheduled programming…
The halftime stats showed a reasonably even match. Miami had a 2-1 lead with 1.05 xG to Sporting’s .85 xG. The home team also had a 53-47 lead in possession and a slight lead in passes completed. Overall, both teams completed 85% of their passes and committed 7 fouls. Despite the score line, the teams were largely playing even with each other.
Sporting made a halftime substitution by bringing in Nemanja Radoja for Felipe Gutierrez, hoping to solidify play in the midfield. Campana nearly completed a hat trick in the 48th minute but Tim Melia made a last gasp save to push the ball wide. Fortunately, the offside flag also came up and the goal wouldn’t have counted, but the Herons continued to look dangerous
Melia’s heroics were again on display in the 54th minute as he dove low and saved a strong shot from Stefanelli. Again, the shot was eventually called due to an inadvertent handball by Stefanelli as he controlled the ball. However the Sporting keeper’s ability to get down and keep the ball out of the net showed by he’s the #1.
In the 60th minute, Sporting committed another turnover after a lackadaisical pass led to a Miami tackle. Andreu Fontas won the ball back but handled the ball in the process. As Fontas argued with Elfath, Sergio Busquets took the ball from Fontas’ hands and quickly restarted play. Sporting was nowhere to be found and Facundo Farias was 1 v 1 with Tim Melia. He placed the ball past Melia to give the home team a 3-1 lead. Sporting’s protests fell on deaf ears and the home team continued their domination.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 10, 2023
A yellow card was shown to Aviles in the 66th minute for a nasty challenge on Erik Thommy. The ensuing free kick found Fontas deep on the endline but he was incapable of doing anything with it but turn it over. Sporting won the ball back in the midfield but were unable to generate any offense from it.
Sergio Busquets again found Leo Campana in a dangerous area. Rosero fell leaving an open look at Melia and the goal but Campana’s shot was directly at Melia.
Sporting Kansas City made their second substitution of the night, removing Daniel Salloi for Willy Agada in the 70th. Inter Miami made its first substitution of the night five minutes later, removing Stefanelli for Sunderland. Sporting made a change in the same window, removing Jake Davis for Tim Leibold.
Alan Pulido pulled SKC to within one goal in the 78th minute with his 13th goal of the season. Erik Thommy found the ball at the top left corner of the box. A Miami challenge dispossessed Thommy but Pulido raced to the ball and blasted it into the far corner of the net.
Keep. Fighting. Fellas.
Alan Pulido pulls us within one.
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) September 10, 2023
Tim Leibold almost immediately picked up a yellow after the restart for a bad foul. Sporting were looking for the tying goal in the final 10 minutes of the match. In the 83rd, Robbie Robinson made way for Allen, to help Miami kill off the game.
The golden opportunity to level the match came in the 85th minute. A cross came through the box and found Tim Leibold cutting in from the right. His shot was deflected off a Miami defender and went wide right of the goal. The ensuing corner kick eventually fell to Erik Thommy at the top of the box who attempted a volley but his shot skied high and wide.
Miami made their third and final substitution in the 87th minute, with Victor Ulloa entering for Facundo Farias. Peter Vermes made his final substitutions, replacing Logan Ndenbe with Khiry Shelton and Remi Walter with Roger Espinoza. Sporting Kansas City put a shot on goal in the 90th +1 off of a corner kick, but the header was poorly placed and Callender made an easy save. The fourth official indicated six minutes of stoppage time for Sporting to look for an equalizer.
In the 93rd minute, there was a lengthy pause for a VAR check for a red card. Jordi Alba was shown a yellow card, but no replay was shown indicating what caused the booking. The announcers indicated that Alba made contact with the fourth official but Elfath chose to allow him to stay on the pitch.
Sporting earned two final corner kicks deep into stoppage time but Johnny Russell’s service was unable to find any players in blue. The referee blew the final whistle and Miami went home with all three points. The final stats had Sporting with more possession, more passes, a higher percentage of passes completed, and more shots. However, Miami won more duels, tackles, and ultimately the only statistic that matters: goals scored. The final xG of the match favored Miami 2 to 1.3
Kansas City only has six matches left in the season and currently sits two points below the playoff line, though FC Dallas have two games in hand.