Inter Miami blanks Toronto FC to snap six-game losing streak

Toronto FC midfielder Richie Laryea (22) runs with the ball as Inter Miami defender Christian Makoun defends during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Inter Miami won 3-0 (Lynne Sladky/AP).

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Inter Miami CF snapped a six-game losing streak with a comfortable 3-0 win over Toronto FC in MLS play Wednesday, getting the better of TFC for a third time this season.

Federico Higuain and Christian Makoun scored for Miami (10-15-5), which also benefitted from an Eriq Zavaleta own goal.

The first two Miami goals came from Toronto errors in the first half. An errant pass from goalkeeper Alex Bono led to the first with the second coming from slack defending off a corner. The third bounced in off Zavaleta as he tried to defend a corner in the second half.

Toronto (6-17-7) was missing both of its starting centre backs with Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga both injured.

Miami came into the game with the league’s worst offence — averaging 0.86 goals a game. But it has feasted on TFC with seven of its 28 goals this season coming against Toronto.

Miami had lost six straight since winning 1-0 in Toronto on Sept. 14 — a result that capped an 11-game run that saw Miami go 7-1-3. Miami was outscored 16-1 during the losing streak.

Phil Neville’s team had been blanked in its four previous outings, all on the road. Miami had managed just one shot on target in each of its last two games and had been outshot 64-34 (20-7 in shots on target) over the last four outings.

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty was one of the few bright spots for Toronto on Wednesday. The 17-year-old winger looked lively in his first career start and eighth MLS appearance.

The injury problems that have dogged Toronto’s designated players this season continued with Venezuelan Yeferson Soteldo limping off in the 39th minute. Alejandro Pozuelo, who started Wednesday, and Jozy Altidore, who came on to open the second half, have both had lengthy injury absences this season.

Earlier in the season, Altidore found himself out of favour with then-coach Chris Armas, forced to train on his own.

Toronto, coming off a 2-0 weekend loss to visiting Atlanta that officially eliminated it from playoff contention, has four remaining regular-season games but is focusing on the Nov. 3 Canadian Championship semifinal with Pacific FC.

After the September loss to Miami, TFC went unbeaten in its next five games (4-0-1) in all competitions — a run that was snapped in the weekend loss to Atlanta.

Toronto dodged a bullet early Wednesday when a second-minute Higuain goal was ruled offside. Former Toronto midfielder Jay Chapman played provider, slicing open the TFC defence, only to see Higuain break a little early before scoring.

Higuain got his goal in the 10th minute, punishing Toronto after Bono’s attempted pass went straight to the 36-year-old Argentine. With Bono out of position, Higuain hammered the ball home for his second goal of the season and the 59th of his 10-year MLS career.

It was Miami’s first goal in 396 minutes, dating back to a 5-1 defeat Sept. 22 at the hands of Nashville SC. It was also the 12th time Toronto has conceded in the first 15 minutes of a game, which ranks worst in the league.

Toronto had a Soteldo goal called back in the 13th minute for offside after the Venezuelan poked him a rebound of Marshall-Rutty’s shot.

Makoun made it 2-0 in the 45th minute, left unmarked on a third straight Miami corner from Gonzalo Higuain, Federico’s younger brother. Left in space, the Venezuelan defender had time to pivot and fire a left-footed shot home when the ball made it to him through traffic. One of the Miami corners came after Bono parried a Gonzalo Higuain free kick just outside the box.

Both of Makoun’s goals this season have come against Toronto.

Gonzalo Higuain shot just wide in the 56th minute. An unmarked Makoun had another chance off a corner in the 60th minute but Bono got a hand to it.

Miami scored on the ensuing corner, with the ball coming off two Miami players and then Zavaleta in the 61st minute.

Miami has been short on bodies as well as goals in recent days. It dressed just six substitutes Wednesday and in the 4-0 weekend loss at Columbus.

Toronto coach Javier Perez made six changes from the midweek starting lineup deployed against Atlanta.

Brazilian fullback Auro and midfielder Mark Delgado were both suspended while Gonzalez and striker Ifunanyachi Achara were injured.

Marshall-Rutty, Zavaleta, Pozuelo, Justin Morrow, Noble Okello and Patrick Mullins all slotted in.

Morrow, a 34-year-old defender who is retiring at the end of his season, made his 250th appearance in all competitions for Toronto — second only to Jonathan Osorio (287 appearances). Pozuelo made his first start since Aug. 27 due to a lower body injury, although he came on as a sub midweek.

Altidore had a chance off a nifty Pozuelo feed in the 79th minute, calling for handball when his shot was stopped by a defender. But the play was judged offside.

Bono had to be sharp to stop Robbie Robinson in the 84th minute.

Wednesday’s game was Miami’s first at home — Fort Lauderdale’s DRV Pink Stadium — since the loss to Nashville on Sept. 22.

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