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Inter Miami, which had turned a corner with a five-game win streak, suffered a setback with a 2-1 road loss to Nashville SC on Wednesday night.
Miami was overwhelmed by the home team from the opening whistle and failed to get off a single shot in the first half. Things picked up after second-half substitutions, Miami eventually got a consolation goal from midfielder Dixon Arroyo in added time, but it wasn’t enough. The final whistle blew a few seconds later.
“We’re disappointed, the first half was the poorest we’ve played all season,” Miami coach Phil Neville said. “I thought we were timid, soft, in possession I thought we were terrible. Second half we got better, but we lost a lot of duels in the midfield area, and we didn’t deserve anything from the game.”
With the loss, Inter Miami dropped from sixth place to 11th in the East with a 5-7-0 record. Nashville extended its unbeaten streak to seven games and remained in third place.
Nashville midfielder Hany Mukhtar showed why he is the reigning MLS MVP. He gave Miami fits all night and provided a perfectly placed assist on the 33rd minute close-range goal by Fafa Picault, a Haitian American who attended Miami Killian High and played youth soccer in West Kendall, Coral Springs and Weston.
Inter Miami captain DeAndre Yedlin had stressed before the game that Mukhtar is extremely difficult to defend.
“His elusiveness, how he seems to find every ball, even on a rebound, that’s a real special player’s instinct,” Yedlin said. “He’s somebody we really have to watch out for.”
Yedlin was rested for the first 66 minutes, replaced in the starting lineup by the coach’s son, Harvey. With three games in one week, Neville said roster rotations are necessary. Nico Stefanelli was also on the bench.
Nashville was the protagonist from the start, and Miami was on its heels, packed into a defensive stance with Leo Campana as the lone striker. Twenty minutes into the game, Nashville had dominated possession 77 percent to 23 percent and the gap was 67 percent to 33 percent at the end of the first half.
“We wanted to continue our mentality of the last five games, and the disappointment was we dropped too deep, were too passive, didn’t get to the ball, allowed them to get control of the game and that wasn’t the game plan,” Neville said. “First half we didn’t lay a glove on them. We lacked any intensity in our defending, which we’ve had so good in the last five games.”
Desperately needing some offensive punch, forward Josef Martinez came off the bench to start the second half, replacing Victor Ulloa.
But before long, Inter Miami found itself in a 2-0 hole after a Lukas MacNaughton header got by defender Ryan Sailor and goalkeeper Drake Callender in the 49th minute.
Nashville nearly took a three-goal lead in the 83rd minute when Jacob Shaffelburg collected a through ball, broke loose and found himself face to face with Callender. He right-footed the shot from the center of the box, but Callender made a huge save.
Campana had a second-half header sail high and wide and another shot blocked. Martinez had a header saved, and Benja Cremaschi’s shot was blocked.
Arroyo’s late goal, his first for Inter Miami, was a strong right-footed blast that came off a corner kick.
“It never feels good to score when you don’t win or at least tie the game,” Arroyo said. “We just have to turn the page and correct our mistakes for the next game.”
Miami returns home for a Saturday night game against state rival Orlando City.
One of the few bright spots for Miami was the MLS debut of Coconut Creek center back Ian Fray, who finally got a chance to play after coming back from two ACL knee surgeries that sidelined him his first two seasons. He came off the bench in the 66th minute, replacing Ryan Sailor, and almost immediately made a few heady plays.