Missing Lionel Messi again, Inter Miami’s hopes of squeezing into the MLS playoffs suffered a body blow on Wednesday with a 4-1 defeat to Chicago Fire.
The defeat leaves Miami next to bottom of the Eastern Conference and five points off the last playoff spot with just three games remaining and its destiny no longer in their own hands.
The prospect of seeing the Argentine World Cup winner in action drew a record home crowd of 62,124 to Soldier Field in Chicago but with no Messi, it was Chicago’s own diminutive number ten who put on the show.
Swiss former Liverpool and Bayern Munich playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri scored twice with his compatriot Maren Haile-Selassie also grabbing a brace.
Chicago’s win strengthens its chances of making the post-season for the first time since 2017, moving it up to eighth place.
All the action came in the second half with Shaqiri opening the scoring four minutes after the interval, finishing off a fine passing move with a left-foot shot at the back post.
Miami bounced back swiftly though with Josef Martinez converting a penalty after a handball from Chicago defender Jonathan Dean.
Miami then had two great chances to take the lead but both Facundo Farias and Benjamin Cremaschi put their shots wide from promising positions.
Chicago showed no such lenience in front of goal however, snatching the lead in the 62nd minute when substitute Haile-Selassie slotted home after being played in by Fabian Herbers.
Haile-Selassie struck again to make it 3-1 with Miami’s back line slow to react to a cross from the right from Ousmane Doumbia and then Shaqiri completed the rout with a smart finish after he was put through by Gaston Gimenez.
“It’s beautiful to see Soldier Field packed full for soccer game and I hope they’re going to come more and more because we showed today how good we are and the team spirit is here,” said Shaqiri.
“We needed that win obviously and every game now is a final. We suffered of course, we saw the quality of Inter Miami but we knew also they had some problems in counter-attack. It was a perfect night for us,” added the 31-year-old.