Preview: Los Angeles FC vs. Inter Miami
Sports Mole previews Monday’s Major League Soccer clash between Los Angeles FC and Inter Miami, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
LA are clinging to second place in the Western Conference despite a 2-1 loss at Charlotte FC last Saturday, while the Herons are 10 points back of a playoff spot in the East, but are on a 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions heading into this game.
Over a week removed from a narrow defeat in Charlotte, the Black and Gold enter this weekend in a close race for second place in their conference, with LAFC currently above the Seattle Sounders on goal difference, with only three points separating themselves from Real Salt Lake in sixth.
The attacking quality of this group has been lethal at BMO Stadium lately, with LA winning four successive matches played there in all competitions, outscoring their opponents by a margin of 18-1 over that stretch, netting three or more goals each time.
That deep-lying transitional approach that we have seen from them since Steve Cherundolo took charge has proven to be highly effective at home where the Black and Gold are unbeaten in four straight MLS contests, conceding multiple strikes in only two domestic encounters at BMO Stadium this season.
Because they have made some deep runs in other tournaments this year, losing in the CONCACAF Champions League final and the Leagues Cup quarter-finals, LAFC have games in hand on almost everybody in the Western Conference, including one on St. Louis City who they trail by seven points for first with nine matches remaining.
Los Angeles are winless when conceding in the opening half at home in this competition, while the reigning MLS Cup champions are unbeaten at BMO Stadium in 2023 when holding the opposition off the scoresheet after 45 minutes, dropping points just once in that scenario all year (0-0 draw versus Atlanta United).
They are winless in three previous encounters against the Eastern Conference this season, though they have not conceded a goal versus the East in this competition, since playing the Philadelphia Union to a 2-2 draw last May.
The Lionel Messi effect has dramatically changed the fortunes of Inter Miami since the seven-time Ballon D’or winner and 2022 World Cup champion arrived in Fort Lauderdale, with this club trending up from a bottom feeder to a cup contender.
Winning the MLS Cup may be out of sight for the Herons at the moment, as they sit 10 points behind the Eastern Conference playoff line, but Miami have already captured a trophy since Messi arrived and are in contention for another, lifting the Leagues Cup in August and advancing into the final of the US Open Cup which will take place near the end of this month.
Miami have games in hand on every Eastern Conference side and may need to win out if they are to climb above that playoff line, as the Herons have five teams to catch in the postseason race and 10 matches still to play.
Under Tata Martino this team as you might imagine with the addition of Messi have been a handful in the attacking third, scoring multiple times in eight of their previous 10 matches played in all competitions.
The man who guided Mexico to a place in the 2022 World Cup however has not seen his side look quite as potent domestically, with Miami failing to score in two of their last three MLS encounters, including a 0-0 draw at home versus Nashville SC on Wednesday.
Inter Miami have lost their only two regular-season outings against LAFC, failing to score both times, while capturing just one of their three away matches played against California clubs in this competition, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 in August 2022.
Los Angeles FC Major League Soccer form:
Los Angeles FC form (all competitions):
Inter Miami Major League Soccer form:
Inter Miami form (all competitions):
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Jesus Murillo is questionable for the Black and Gold this weekend due to pain in his lower extremities with Diego Rosales missing their previous encounter for that same reason, while Diego Palacios has been temporarily excused from the club for personal reasons.
Last weekend, Mario Gonzalez made his second consecutive regular-season start, scoring his first career MLS goal, while Cristian Olivera made a second successive appearance in Black and Gold colours, replacing Carlos Vela after 64 minutes.
John McCarthy has three clean sheets in his last four competitive matches played at BMO Stadium, stopping all four of the Colorado Rapids’ efforts the last time out when Mateusz Bogusz, Vela, Ryan Hollingshead and Olivera each netted in a 4-0 triumph.
For the first time in 88 days Messi failed to register a goal or assist in a competitive match on Wednesday, but Drake Callender was there when needed, posting his second successive MLS clean sheet, stopping two Nashville efforts.
Sergio Busquets made his first career MLS start in midweek, Jordi Alba collected his second cap in this competition, while Leonardo Campana began on the bench for the first time since his side captured the Leagues Cup.
Los Angeles FC possible starting lineup:
McCarthy; Duenas, Maldonado, Chiellini, Hollingshead; Acosta, Sanchez, Bogusz; Vela, Bouanga, Biuk
Inter Miami possible starting lineup:
Callender; Yedlin, Allen, Miller, Alba; Ruiz, Busquets, Arroyo; Messi, Martinez, Taylor
We say: Los Angeles FC 2-3 Inter Miami
On paper, Los Angeles may be superior to Inter Miami in many statistical categories, however, the Herons have one element that no other MLS club can boast, Lionel Messi.
His presence has almost single-handedly turned the Miami fortunes around this season, while he has brought out the best in so many players on this team since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain and we expect to see Messi and his former Barcelona teammates (Busquets and Alba) make all the difference for them on Sunday.
How to watch
You can watch Los Angeles FC vs. Inter Miami and every MLS match this season live on Apple TV. Click here for more details on how to subscribe.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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