This tactical analysis piece looks at the MLS clash between Inter Miami v New York City FC. We will look at the tactics used by both sides and provide analysis on how New York City FC continued their strong run of form.
New York City FC’s recent form has seen them close the gap on the top 4 in the Eastern Conference. After 15 games New York City have 23 points and are in 15th. They trail Philadelphia by five points who currently occupy 4th place.
Inter Miami fell to a 2-3 defeat in this match leaving them joint bottom of the conference with DC United. Former Juventus and Real Madrid star Gonzalo Higuain made his home debut in the MLS for Inter Miami. He provided the assist for former Celtic winger Lewis Morgan’s second goal of the night.
Inter Miami started in a 4-1-4-1 formation but giving attacking priorities to Pizarro and Morgan on the wings. Both players drifted infield when in possession looking to gain possession in the half-spaces. They adapted their formation throughout, sometimes pushing Pizarro and Morgan higher up to make a 4-3-3 especially when trailing in the game.
New York City FC stuck with their 4-2-3-1 throughout, with the wide players adding more a more defensive mindset when defending the lead. Delia’s side continue with a system and tactics they have settled in. As oppose to Inter Miami who were more flexible in the tactics trying to find different ways of breaking down New York City FC’s defence.
Inter Miami in Possession
While in possession, Inter Miami had a tendency to play quite narrowly while building attacks. In the early stages, Morgan and Pizarro would look to play close to Higuain to try and build up transitions and counter-attacks from there. The image below shows Morgan receiving a pass after Inter Miami win the ball back in midfield.
Ultimately, with this system it is vital that the full-backs provide the width. This is something the team significantly lose with inverted wingers. In the second half, Inter Miami tried to keep their wingers wide and look to find areas to attack around New York City’s defence.
The above image shows both Morgan and Pizarro staying with the ball in the middle of the pitch. New York City has set up to defend the central areas so working the ball wide can give Inter Miami the chance to build 1v1 attacks in wide areas. With Higuain dropping deep though, if the ball is worked out to Morgan on the right, he will need to run at the defence and try to create a chance for himself. Otherwise, the attack will slow down while waiting for others to join. The fluidity of Inter Miami’s movement does not always provide the opportunity for quick transitions. New York City FC had eight counterattacks, Inter Miami had none. Inter Miami did create more attacks, 58, compared with New York City’s 25. Inter Miami’s attacks were often too slow to disorganise the New York City defence.
New York City FC in Possession
From the start of the game, New York City FC would continue to build play patiently. They look to create overloads on the wings as well as inviting Inter Miami’s defence higher up the pitch for through balls. With Inter Miami trying to block out the middle of the pitch, New York needed to find ways to attack from wide. This would bring Inter Miami players out of the centre as they pressed.
While building up from the back, their full-backs would push on a provide width for attacks. The image below shows their starting positions after the goalkeeper rolls the ball out the left-sided centre back.
Both full-backs circled, get as wide as possible. In this scenario, the left-back is available to receive the ball out wide with a pass from the left-sided centre back. On the opposite side, the right-back also keeps his width. He is ready to receive the ball if it is worked across the pitch.
The ball is played out to the left back who plays a first time ball back across to the right-sided centre back. They switch the emphasis of the attack from left to right, taking a number of Inter Miami players out of the game. As one of the central midfielders came across to support the press, the switch now leaves New York with a 2v1 overload on the right to build the attack.
While attacking, New York City’s full-backs and wide players will ensure that width is kept between them. Overlapping and underlapping runs are made by the player without the ball based on his team mates movement. Below we can see their use of width. The full back moves forward and comes more central as he approaches the final third. The wide forward immediately focuses his run on getting around and outside of his teammate. This specific attack led to New York City’s second goal. The full back was able to continue with the ball towards the edge of the box before finishing from range.
This type of movement looks to isolate full backs and create opportunities of 2v1 in attacking overloads. The defenders are not in control of the situation. They are unsure of whether to try and delay the player on the ball and cover the pass, or to engage the dribbler and try to win the ball.
When in the final third, New York City chooses not to cross the ball too often aerially. They look to work the ball into the box, or get to the by-line for cut backs. Creating these 2v1 overloads gives them the opportunity to do so. New York City only made five attempted crosses during this match, with only one completed. This was opposed to Inter Miami who attempted 25 crosses, with five being successful. Both sides had a 20% success rate.
New York City FC often use short one touch passes within their own third and the middle third. This is used to draw out the opposition, knowing the Inter Miami will look to press where possible. The image below shows how New York City FC has got into positions where they have opportunities for line breaking passes. In the left-back area, quick interchange passing has brought on a press and Inter Miami have pushed up the pitch. The centre forward and number 10 separate. The defence man mark, leaving large gaps which the defensive midfielder is trying to fill. Here, Inter Miami’s right-back has been brought up, out of position while looking to press with the midfield.
Inter Miami Out of Possession
Inter Miami struggled to maintain defensive organisation, especially on transitions. The below image shows the defence has cleared a cross. As the second ball comes in there are 6 players standing in a vertical line. As can be seen here, Inter Miami’s reactions to transitions and second balls is disorganised. Ultimately, players are rushing to get up the pitch without being aware of opposition players positions.
The midfield and defence could often get dragged across the pitch while New York kept their width. This was all part of Delia’s tactics, to use short interchanges to encourage the Inter Miami press.
In the image above we can see that New York City have brought all of the Inter Miami players across into the near side of the pitch. As we can see the full-back on the far side for New York City has no one to pressure him as the ball is played out wide. He is able to attack unchallenged to the edge of the box and score New York City’s second goal.
Inter Miami must work on their organisation out of possession. New York City moved Inter Miami out of position more easily, and traps were set to exploit their press.
New York City FC Out of Possession
Delia’s side operated in a mid to low block throughout the match. 57% of their recoveries in the first half happened in their defensive third, 61% in the second half. Delia’s men dropped and narrowed the pitch causing congestion for the Inter Miami attacks. The image below shows all New York City players in their own half and central.
Delia had prepared for Pizarro’s movement from wide areas. Analysis shows he would look to cut inside and look to create opportunities in central areas. New York City would defend deep and create overloads on in these areas to limit the space to move into. The images below explicitly shows the overloads in effect. There is a 3v2 on the New York City right-hand side of defence. If Pizarro is able to get through this overload, there is a 5v1 in and around the penalty box.
Inter Miami’s forwards operate in central zones and half-spaces, with the full-backs providing most of the width. Pizarro on the left is more comfortable in central areas. Lewis Morgan would provide width and look to get into crossing positions where possible. New York City dealt with crosses well throughout the game. The image below shows how New York City again limit the space available, this time from a cross. Lewis Morgan has three players to beat to get the cross into the box.
New York City came into the game favourites and showed their tactical dominance over Inter Miami. Ronny Delia has organised his side and they are aware of their roles in and out of possession. While in possession they could move Inter Miami across the pitch and force them out of areas that they want to exploit.
Inter Miami attacked centrally 56% of the time and New York City were usually able to comfortably manage these areas. With Morgan and Pizarro coming central often, the full-backs were needed to provide the width. With the way New York City organised themselves, it slowed down Inter Miami attacks. By the time full-backs had joined in the attack providing width, often New York City had numbers back. New York City were able to force them back or deal with the cross.
New York City’s ability to build out from the back and create quick transitions when available will continue to be a key part of their attack. Scoring first and early forced Inter Miami to be more adventurous to win the ball as well as searching for goals.
Alonso will see that his side’s overall tactics out of possession need work; with an emphasis on building a more structured and controlled press. As has been noted, too often they were moved around the pitch at the will of New York City.