Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Inter Miami 🔎
FC Dallas welcomes Lionel Messi and Inter Miami to town.
The matchup every Major League Soccer fan is looking forward to now is finally here for FC Dallas fans. Lionel Messi and Inter Miami are coming to town on Sunday evening for the Round of 16 in the 2023 Leagues Cup.
FC Dallas has seen a version of Miami before this season, winning 1-0 in South Florida earlier this spring. But this is a completely new Herons side with Messi and company.
Let’s dive into the Herons and how FC Dallas can secure a spot in the quarterfinals.
Key Player: Lionel Messi
It would be silly not to highlight one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Messi has been on fire since joining Miami. He’s got five goals so far in this tournament, including two in the win over Orlando City on Wednesday night.
Key Matchup: Messi vs Jose Martinez
How FC Dallas head coach Nico Estevez's game plans for Messi will be a big storyline in this one. You have to think he’ll stick a veteran player like Martinez on him defensively to try and keep him at bay. It is possible the two players have crossed paths before, back in their Barcelona days. Martinez was on the reserve squad there from 2016-18.
How they got here: Miami ran through Group play with wins over Atlanta United and Liga MX side Cruz Azul before dispatching their Florida rivals Orlando in the Round of 32.
All the new faces: It isn’t just Messi that has joined the club in recent weeks. They’ve added Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Diego Gomez, Facundo Farias, and Tomas Aviles in the last few weeks. Two full Designated Players in Messi and Busquets, and three U22 Initiative players in Gomez, Farias and Aviles. Oh, and Alba could easily be DP in his own right. It is truly insane what Miami has done to their roster.
International duty: none
Head coach Tata Martino has gone with the same lineup in every game so far in the Leagues Cup:
Callendar; Yedlin, Kryvtsov, Miller, Allen; Arroyo, Busquets, Cremanschi; Messi, Taylor, Martinez
Keys To Advance
Don’t be star-struck - This may be easier said than done for some guys, but you have to think this will be a special moment for a lot of these players out there on Sunday night. Think about being a guy like Bernard Kamungo and getting a chance to play against Messi. Or any of the Homegrown guys. But at the end of the day, FC Dallas has to find a way to get over that quickly, or this game could get out of hand in a hurry (just ask Orlando or Atlanta).
Let the heat help you - It has been hot in South Florida recently, but not Texas hot. You could see in the last two games against Necaxa and Mazatlan that the heat was a factor. FC Dallas needs to use that to their advantage to control the tempo and pace of this game. With a packed crowd at Toyota Stadium, it could feel even hotter on the field. Force Miami to chase the game early and often. Find space on the counterattacks to do damage. After all, before this tournament, Miami was the worst team in MLS for a reason.
Be smart in possession - With the influx of smart and talented players to the roster, guys like Messi and Busquets know how to make a defense pay for mistakes. Just as you want to control the tempo and possession game, you have to be smart about how you do it. We’ve seen too many times this season that teams pounce on Dallas when they are too slow to build out of the back. You don’t want to chase this game from an early mistake against someone like Messi. He’s talented enough as it is. There is no reason to give him easy chances to score from bad mistakes.
Truth be told, we’re not getting the same information during this tournament on injuries for other teams as we do during the regular season. Seriously, this tournament has a lot of growing pains to go through.