Inter Miami coach Phil Neville called out star striker Gonzalo Higuaín after Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Los Angeles FC left David Beckham’s club on one point from three matches.
With two losses and a draw in the young Major League Soccer campaign after the home defeat, Inter Miami must have clutch efforts, Neville said, from the 34-year-old Argentine forward.
“For us to be successful, he has to perform in these moments for this team,” Neville said. “That’s the challenge.
“For me, and I’m really strong on this, his role hasn’t changed. He is the one that is our best finisher. He is the one that we demand the most goals from. He is the one that we demand the most assists from. Period.”
The third-year team, however, has changed around former Juventus and Real Madrid star Higuain after a transformative off-season roster overhaul following Miami’s failure to reach the 2021 MLS playoffs.
Mexican international Rodolfo Pizarro, World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi and defenders Leandro González Pírez and Nicolás Figal have departed.
And while Higuain was last year’s top scorer with 12 goals and nine assists, he does have a new supporting cast including striker Leonardo Campana, winger Emerson Rodriguez and Finnish international winger Robert Taylor.
“I just wanted more quality from my quality players,” Neville said after the LAFC loss. “Every team we’ve played against, their quality players stand up and score. Ours don’t. And they need to.”
That’s a clarion call to Higuain.
“I was expecting more quality in terms of the dominance that we had from our senior players, and they need to step up,” Neville said. “I expect us in those moments to have better quality because that’s what we brought in. I expect us to have better quality because that’s what we’ve got on the pitch.”
Inter Miami played a man down in the second half after a red card on Brek Shea, with Kwadwo Opoku scoring in the 45th minute and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in the 82nd minute.
“We’re just in that sticky period at the moment where we don’t seem to get a break,” Neville said. “The fact they never gave in, that they worked so hard, made me really proud of them.”
At Los Angeles, the Seattle Sounders became the fastest MLS team to reach 200 regular-season triumphs after winning 3-2 over the host Galaxy. The Sounders reached the milestone in only 425 matches, breaking the old mark of 432 set by the Galaxy.
Chicharito opened the scoring for LA in the sixth minute but Seattle’s Jordan Morris scored in the 17th minute and Fredy Montero hit a penalty kick two minutes into first-half stoppage time for the Sounders. Douglas Costa equalized for the Galaxy in the 48th minute but Xavier Arreaga netted the winner in the 72nd minute for the Sounders.
Since Seattle’s 2009 debut, the club has won two MLS titles and reached the playoffs 13 consecutive years.