New York City FC v Inter Miami: Neville's side out to make it three wins from three
Inter Miami take on New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Saturday aiming to become just the third side in MLS history – after LA Galaxy in 2010 and Seattle Sounders in 2009 – to open a season with three straight shutout victories.
NYCFC have by far the better record in this fixture, though, having won six of their previous seven meetings with Inter, the most recent of those encounters coming in the first round of last season's MLS Cup playoffs when Nick Cushing's side cruised to a 3-0 victory.
Gabriel Pereira and Maxi Moralez scored six minutes apart in the second half and Heber added a late third to seal the win for the then reigning MLS Cup champions, although they tasted defeat against Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Final.
It was a familiar feeling for Inter, who have lost all three of their away games at NYCFC, losing by an aggregate 7-0 scoreline – the other two fixtures finishing 2-0 in the Pigeons’ favour.
Phil Neville's Inter did come out on top in the home regular-season encounter last time out, though, as second-half goals from Ariel Lassiter and Alejandro Pozuelo earned them a 3-2 comeback win.
City certainly had home comforts last season as they won 10 regular-season matches on their own patch – only Los Angeles FC (13) and Philadelphia Union (12) recorded more victories.
Inter did not fare so well on their travels in the 2022 campaign, winning just four of their 18 matches away from home, two of those coming in back-to-back outings prior to losing against NYCFC in their playoff showdown.
Inter, who are reportedly hoping to persuade Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi to make the move Stateside, have seen off CF Montreal and Philadelphia Union by the same 2-0 scoreline in their opening two games.
They join New England Revolution at the top of the Eastern Conference standings as the only sides with perfect records so far and are one of four teams overall in MLS to have won two from two.
It marks the best start the Herons have made to a season in what is their fourth campaign in MLS, with the aim for Neville and his men to improve on last season's sixth-placed finish in the Eastern Conference standings.
Neville has opted for the same starting line-up across both games so far, led by Josef Martinez up top. Landing 2018 Golden Boot winner Martinez was a big acquisition for Inter, but the Venezuela international has yet to find the net, while Miami have also had to cope without injured forward Leo Campana.
Instead, the goals have been shared between Sergii Kryvtsov, Shanyder Borgelin, Corentin Jean and Robert Taylor, while four different players have claimed an assist.
As for Cushing's side, the 2021 MLS Cup winners, they followed up a disappointing 2-0 loss at Nashville SC on the opening weekend with a 1-1 draw away to Chicago Fire.
Pereira opened the scoring for NYCFC at Soldier Field in the 39th minute of that most recent outing, but the Fire snatched a point through Fabian Herbers' deflected 75th-minute strike.
Cushing will take comfort from the fact his side are playing on home soil for the first time this season, with City having won six of their eight home openers in MLS.
Players To Watch
New York City FC – Gabriel Pereira
Pereira was the man who scored City's deserved breakthrough goal in the most recent match versus Inter Miami, and the Brazilian is also the only NYCFC player to score so far this campaign.
There is certainly a South American feel to the City attack, with 44 of their past 45 MLS goals (excluding own goals) being scored by players from that continent, including each of the past 19.
Pereira scored nine goals in 29 league appearances in 2022 – an overperformance from his expected goals (xG) return of 4.75 – while also chipping in with three assists. The former Corinthians winger will be looking to better both of those tallies this campaign.
Others, including Talles Magno, will also need to step up in the post-Maxi Moralez era, and the return of midfielder Santiago Rodriguez will go a long way to helping provide more creativity in the final third.
Inter Miami – Josef Martinez
Martinez arrived at Inter Miami in the close season boasting a CV that includes an MLS Cup, an MVP award, an MLS Golden Boot and also the U.S. Open Cup, all of those coming during his successful spell with Atlanta United.
While Miami have impressed early on, however, their star acquisition has attempted just two shots in his first two starts and has failed to hit the target with either of those.
Should Neville be worried? Martinez only failed to register a shot on target in successive starts on two occasions in his previous six seasons in Major League Soccer, doing so in May-July 2021 and September 2018.
New York City FC v Inter Miami CF prediction
NYCFC may have made a slow start to the season, taking just one point from six on offer, but being back on home soil this weekend provides a chance to kickstart their season.
Stats Perform's prediction model has given the hosts a 58.7 per cent chance of victory, compared to 16.8 per cent for Inter Miami. A draw is given a 24.5 per cent likelihood.
Momentum plays a huge factor in sport, though, and Neville's side make the trip to Yankee Stadium with a spring in their step as they look to prolong their best start to a season and remain at the top of the league table.
If they are to do that and come away with victory, they will need to score their first goal away at New York City in what is their fourth visit. Having a motivated Martinez up top will certainly help in that regard.