Inter Miami CF II launched its inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign with a 2-0 win against Columbus Crew 2 at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday. The match saw the team feature players from every step of its development pathway, including six players with previous experience in the Inter Miami CF Academy. First Team loanees Emerson Rodríguez and Nick Marsman, meanwhile, led the team to victory, with the Colombian netting a second-half brace and the goalkeeper keeping a clean sheet.
“It’s great to be back on the field. When you have a great group of players and work for a really good club, you want to make sure you come out and put the best version of yourself out there as a group. It was great,” said head coach Darren Powell. “It was a long preseason, these guys have been working since January, so I’m really pleased by their efforts tonight, their attitude and the work they put in on the field.”
For the team’s first match of 2022, Inter Miami CF II lined up with a mix of loaned First Team players, MLS NEXT Pro players, and one Academy player. Marsman returned from an extended injury absence to start the match in goal; Harvey Neville, Tyler Hall, Ethan Hardin and Noah Allen formed the team’s backline; Abel Caputo, Braxton Najib and George Acosta lined up in midfield; Rodríguez and Robbie Robinson started on the wings, flanking striker Shaan Hundal.Of the starting XI, five players - Marsman, Allen, Acosta, Rodríguez and Robinson - featured on loan from the First Team, while six - Neville, Hall, Hardin, Caputo, Najib and Hundal - are MLS NEXT Pro or Academy players. Marsman’s start marked his first competitive action since suffering an injury late in the 2021 MLS season, while Hall’s start marked his first at the professional level in his Inter Miami CF II debut.
Inter Miami CF II got off to a rapid start, getting its first shot off in the first minute of action; Neville hit a long ball over the top to the run of Rodríguez, who cut a pass back to Acosta at the top of the box, but his shot went over. The action set the tone of what was to come throughout the remainder of the match.
The team created a number of dangerous attacking chances through rapid transition moments, with Robinson and Rodríguez testing Columbus with constant runs with and without the ball. In the 28th minute, Robinson made a chopping run to beat a defender and draw a foul just outside of the box before lining up to take it himself, curling his strike at the near post and drawing a diving, fingertip save by the Columbus keeper.
Defensively, the team remained stout, stifling Columbus and limiting the visitors to difficult shot attempts. One moment of note came in the 34th minute, when Hall tracked back to cut out a dangerous pass heading for the last man with a well-timed clearance.
The hosts’ best chance of the half came in the 42nd minute; Robinson played a perfect through ball to the run of Acosta behind the defense, who rounded the keeper but slotted his shot just narrowly wide as the angle quickly became too tight. Despite the team’s efforts, the match entered halftime scoreless.
Inter Miami CF II made two changes to start the second half, bringing on winger Romeo Beckham for Robinson and defender Logan Batiste for Allen. The appearance marked Batiste’s competitive debut for Inter Miami CF II.
In the 55th minute, Rodríguez took control of the match, scoring the opening goal; the Colombian received a pass from Hundal, feinted to the inside, went down the outside and dinked a deft shot over the onrushing keeper to make it 1-0. The goal was Rodríguez’s first for the club.
The Colombian quickly doubled his tally, scoring a second in the 63rd minute; a long ball from Marsman fell in behind the defense and perfectly in stride for Rodríguez, who fought off his defender, took a touch off his head, clipped another touch over the keeper, and met the ball at the far post to smash in a point-blank, empty-net goal to make it 2-0. The assist by Marsman marked his first for the club.
The scoreline held at 2-0 through the final whistle, resulting in a win for the hosts in the team’s first MLS NEXT Pro match.
Inter Miami CF II also made a few more substitutions throughout the course of the second half; Shanyder Borgelin came on for Hundal, Miles Perkovich came on for Rodríguez, and Benjamin Cremaschi came on for Hall. In total, five players made their club debuts with Inter Miami CF II in the match.
Next, Inter Miami CF II will host Philadelphia Union II at DRV PNK Stadium on Sunday, April 3 at 6 p.m. ET.