The proper home opener Inter Miami CF waited on for over a year finally arrived on Sunday.
Thirteen months after the game was originally scheduled, Inter Miami played the LA Galaxy to kick off the team’s Phil Neville era in their second season, dropping the match, 3-2, at DRV PNK Stadium.
Sunday’s crowd was the most fans Inter Miami’s played in front of for a home match in the team’s brief history.
While Sunday’s attendance wasn’t officially announced, it easily eclipsed the number of fans who attended those home games in 2020 with up to 8,000 spectators allowed into the 17,000-capacity stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
Inter Miami were supposed to play the LA Galaxy for their 2020 home opener, but the MLS season was suspended and eventually canceled two days before the game was scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can’t be more excited,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said during halftime of Sunday’s match. “I want to a shout out to their ownership group, to their staff and to the fans who kept it going. They supported this team during a really difficult period where they weren’t able to have a true opening day. It’s kind of like a second opening.”
Gonzalo Higuaín (one goal and one assist) was responsible for both of Inter Miami’s scores, but a Sacha Kljestan goal in the 81st minute spoiled Inter Miami’s first game under Neville and in front of club co-owner David Beckham since the onset of the pandemic.
Inter Miami were the more threatening team in the attacking in the first half, and they were rewarded with the game’s first goal.
Rodolfo Pizarro found Higuaín with a pass behind the Galaxy’s backline during stoppage time in the opening half, with the Argentine striker dribbling the ball up the field into a one-on-one with LA’s goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.
Higuaín casually laid the ball off in front of LA’s goal to a sprinting Robbie Robinson, who slotted his shot past Bond for the first score of his MLS career to give Inter Miami a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
The Galaxy tied the game, 1-1, in the 62nd minute when Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez got past Leonardo Gonzalez Pirez in front of Inter Miami’s goal before knocking in his shot past John McCarthy.
Inter Miami didn’t waste time in regaining their lead.
Pizarro was fouled in LA’s box five minutes later, resulting in Higuaín knocking in the penalty kick to give Inter Miami a 2-1 lead in the 68th minute for his first score of the season.
Chicharito tied the match, 2-2, in the 73rd minute with a shot near the back post. Kljestan scored the game-deciding goal eight minutes later to give Inter Miami the loss.
Inter Miami’s starting 11 for the opener were: McCarthy; Kevlvin Leerdam, Nico Figal, Gonzalez Pirez; Joevin Jones; Gregore, Blaise Matuidi; Lewis Morgan; Pizarro; Robinson; Higuaín.
Inter Miami (0-1-0) will have another opportunity to get their first points of the season next Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.