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Luis Suarez carries Inter Miami without Lionel Messi in impressive win at D.C. United

Washington, D.C. — Taking a trip to Audi Field, Inter Miami were able to pull out a 3-1 victory over D.C. United on Saturday, keeping their strong form going even in the absence of Lionel Messi thanks to a brace from Luis Suarez. D.C. United scored the first goal via a rocket from Jared Stroud but the Herons would score three unanswered goals to hand D.C. their first loss of the young MLS season. The improvement under Troy Lesesne could still be seen but there isn’t a team in the league that can contain Suarez.

The Miami dichotomy continues as the Herons are Supporters Shield contenders with Lionel Messi but a below-average team without him and Suarez on the pitch. But when one enters, everything changes and that’s just what happened as it only took Suarez 10 minutes of being on the pitch to find the back of the net providing a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.

Entering to cheers from the fans despite this being an away game, it makes sense why Suarez’s entry would galvanize Miami before even mentioning that he provides the attack with a focal point that it desperately needs. Leonardo Campana is a quality striker in his own right but playing next to Suarez elevates him by providing space and service which the duo took advantage of in a big way with Campana assisting Suarez’s first goal of the match.

With the duo interchanging, D.C. United didn’t have an answer despite being organized for most of the match. The league is quickly learning that the best laid plans can be destroyed by the Herons when they’re locked in and a good example is Suarez’s second goal. Everything was covered and the Uruguayan was in a position that would be a disadvantage to most shooters — but Suarez isn’t like most shooters. 

After Diego Gomez dispossessed Mateusz Klich, D.C. attempted to dispossess Suarez putting him into a poor shooting position but he unleashed a lofted shot anyway. Alex Bono got a hand to it but it wouldn’t be enough to stop it from going in. That brings Suarez to four goals and three assists in all competitions. 

While the MVP award is expected to be Messi’s to lose in his first full campaign, if Suarez can continue to help carry the load on days when the Argentine doesn’t play, Inter Miami will be better as a whole from it. This is the first victory for the Herons without Messi this season as they have struggled to produce without their talisman. In the 12 matches that Messi hasn’t started, Inter Miami has a record of 4-3-5. They’re also scoring 1.2 fewer goals per game while conceding a goal more per game when the Argentine doesn’t play but only two of those games without Messi were with Suarez as a member of the squad.

“They have quality. It doesn’t matter that Messi isn’t here. Obviously, Suarez comes on and Busquets was in the match, Alba was there. I said this whole week, Campana has quality, Ruiz has quality, and Redondo has quality,” Lesesne said following the match. “It’s a good side and any mistakes that you make will see them punish you.”

While Suarez didn’t start either of those matches himself due to the fact that he needs rest with the Herons taking part in Concacaf Champions Cup and Leagues Cup alongside their MLS duties, Miami have improved every time he came off the bench. The score doesn’t do D.C. United’s effort in the match justice as the xG was 2.30 to 1.44 in favor of  Miami but when you have the quality that the Herons possess, any mistake is punished.

There will be a bit of a worry for Miami, however, as more injuries reared their heads. Usually, the international break would bring relief where teams can get players healthy but Inter Miami will have two matches where they’ll be down to bare bones due to their numerous commitments around the world.  Center back Nicolas Freire had to be replaced during the first half of play and now if Tata Martino would like to continue with a back three he’s down to bare bones while doing so. 

With the departure of DeAndre Yedlin to Cincinnati, David Ruiz continues to improve as a makeshift right back adding more versatility to the side. Now getting their first victory of the season without Messi under their belt, next Miami will look to carry that momentum into facing New York Red Bulls next week.

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