Rocket City Recap: Huntsville loses 1-2 to Inter Miami II and more

In my preparation before I write these recaps, I typically re-watch the “90 in 15” highlights several times, making little notes here and there and comparing things with how I felt live during the game. I did much of that Monday night.

However, on Tuesday morning, Huntsville City FC announced the departure of head coach Jack Collison. That threw a bit of a wrench into things. Before we get to all that, let’s talk the actual game on the field.

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The game

Huntsville got off to a very quick start in Chase Stadium, with Jonathan Bolaños winning the ball back high up the field, with his challenge sending the ball to the feet of Adem Sipić, who just couldn’t finish in the box. However, that was a harbinger of things to come. Huntsville kept the pressure on Miami, with Brennan Creek and Maximus Ekk connecting on a chipped up one two that nearly put Creek in a position to score, if not for the keeper coming out.

However, the pressure would pay off with Alejandro Velazquez-Lopez’s excellent corner delivery finding the head of Scott Cheevers in the 12th minute to make it 1-0 to the visitors. The lead wouldn’t last long, though, as a bad giveaway by Fernando Cicéron and Joel Sangwa in the defensive third allowed Miami to feed the ball to Ryan Carmichael, who recovered brilliantly from a poor first touch to turn and shoot to bring the hosts level in the 24th minute.

This is a problem Huntsville has continuously had this season, with bad errors coming from playing out the back. Neither fullback, Cicéron or Isaiah Jones, is natural to that position, which doesn’t help. Isaiah Jones actually looked much, much better at right back in this game, but it’s still no secret playing there doesn’t exactly suit his strengths. Jones even found himself in a position to shoot uncontested from just to the side of the penalty spot, but put his effort over the bar in the 28th minute.

Three minutes later in the 31st minute, again it was Sangwa and Cicéron making errors leading directly to goals for Miami. Sangwa allowed a long ball forward to bounce in front of him, and Cicéron wasn’t tight enough to his man, allowing Bryan Destin to latch onto the ball and finish.

The rest of the half saw both teams trade punches, with the clearest chance coming for Adem Sipić in the 41st minute. But with the score at 2-1 to Miami, both teams hit the locker room. The second half started the way the first half ended, with both teams doing little to seriously threaten either goal.

However, in the 70th minute, disaster struck as Adem Sipić was given his second yellow and sent off. Putting the red card aside, again I thought Sipić played very well up to that point. His movement is excellent for his age, so it often seems like he will find himself on the end of three or four chances a game. If he can get to a point where he’s putting one of those away? He won’t be in Huntsville long.

But the red card can’t be put aside forever, and it creates a serious problem. Huntsville currently has no available strikers for their game against Crown Legacy on April 13th. None. Not a single one. Sipić is suspended, Forster Ajago is out with an arm/shoulder injury, and Woobens Pacius is injured as well, though his injury seems more long term.

Sure, Huntsville has players like Maximus Ekk and Ollie Wright who could probably do a job at the number nine spot in a pinch, but being left with no natural players at any position is bad. Add that to the lack of natural fullbacks on either side, and Huntsville’s injury crisis really comes into focus.

The rest of the game saw Miami seriously threaten to make it 3-1, but be unable to do so. Huntsville never saw another sight of goal. Then, two days later, Jack Collison departed.

The future

Where does Huntsville go from here? What approach do they take moving forward? Christophe Berra is the man in charge for the rest of the season, does he make any changes to the tactics? This is a team that creates loads and loads of chances, but also gives away a frustrating amount of goals to individual errors.

There’s every reason to believe if Huntsville could just eliminate some of those errors, they might be one of the very best teams in the Eastern Conference. Through four games, Huntsville has seven goals. That’s almost two per game. They’ve taken the most corners in the league, and also have the most accurate long balls in MLS NEXT Pro.

Chance creation isn’t the problem. The problem is conceding nine goals through four games.

Just about every single defender on this roster is incredibly young, and again they are missing their presumptive starting-quality fullbacks in Joey Skinner and Tomás Ritondale. But that doesn’t fully explain just how porous Huntsville has been.

For instance, this is a team who has committed the joint most fouls in the league, while conceding the most penalties in the league, and retaining the third worst save percentage. Too often the goalkeeper, be it Ben Martino or Jake Grekowicz, is left totally isolated against an attacker through on goal, and too often they are conceding defensive set pieces in bad spots.

These are the problems Christophe Berra needs to solve. However, there is a balance to it, as I’ve mentioned multiple times. First and foremost, Huntsville is a developmental spot for, hopefully, future Nashville players.

The roster in 2023 was much older and more experienced, while in 2024 there are loads more young players and academy products. Nearly 30% of minutes so far this season have gone to Nashville academy players. If Berra can find a way to keep a large portion of these players involved while also improving results, that’s all the better.

Author: Ronan Briscoeis a contributor for Broadway Sports, and a founding contributor at SoundwaveSoccer.com, where he covers Nashville SC, Huntsville City FC and Nashville's youth academy.

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