When Cincinnati FC face Inter Miami CF on Saturday night, the hosts are hoping to finally end a series of eight games without a win at their new stadium.
Cincinnati (3-9-8, 17 points) is the rare MLS team that does worse at home than away. It lost its first three games at the brand new TQL Stadium before drawing the next five.
Cincinnati lost 3-2 to Miami (6-9-5, 23 points) in the stadium opener on May 16. , were then beaten by Gonzalo Higuain at the late winner.
Cincinnati head coach Jaap Stam believes Saturday’s game against another team below the playoff line could be as difficult as the last two, away losses to leading New England Supporters’ Shield and defending MLS Cup champions Columbus.
“Sometimes when you play with teams that may be around you as a team, sometimes it doesn’t make it any easier,” said Stam of Miami, two places above his 13th place in the Eastern Conference rankings. “Sometimes these games are even more difficult.”
Despite playing on the international field, Stam will have most of his squad available, including top offensive producer Luciano Acosta (four goals, six assists). Defender Ronald Matarrita is the only player to play with Costa Rica’s national team in World Cup qualifiers.
Miami is in a much better position to get a late playoff run, with just seven points separating the club from the east playoff line. Miami also has two games for the teams currently playing the last three East Qualifiers.
The club are playing well, winning home games in a row before drawing a goalless draw in Orlando last weekend.
Miami will play without Rodolfo Pizarro, who scored three of the team’s last four goals and was called up to the Mexican national team.
Inter Miami manager Phil Neville has a different view than Stam and sees the upcoming game as a possible starting gun for a playoff push in the late season. It’s the first of four in a row against clubs currently below the playoff line.
“We have a small number of games now that we feel like we can really have a big impact on the season,” said Neville. “And every single player has to be ready for it and for the challenge ahead.”