Inter Miami will face Nashville SC this Sunday in a rematch of the team’s 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs match. With the team coming off of its first victory of 2021, head coach Phil Neville reflected on what the result means and what he expects to come next.
“Like we said after the game, this is just the start of the journey. We’ve had two really good performances and one good result. The road is long,” said Neville. “It’s about focusing on the next game.”
Neville explained what he expects from the competition both on Sunday and throughout the season, highlighting the quality of MLS teams and the boost from the return of fans.
“We just have to make sure we find our rhythm and the quality and confidence that we showed in Philadelphia and against the LA Galaxy, that is the challenge for us on Sunday against a team [Nashville SC] that I think has been unlucky. They probably should have had six points from the first two games with the amount of chances and opportunities they create, and the pressure they put on the opposition. They’re an outstanding team with a brilliant manager.
“You look at the first two weekends and there have been some incredible results, teams winning, teams losing, teams losing and coming back and winning. I think it’s going to be one of those leagues this year where the level of performance and the level of teams has risen incredibly. The fact that we have supporters back in stadiums has helped that. You see the players, I think they’re playing with more intensity and more enjoyment. When you play with more enjoyment you get better quality.”
For Neville, the team’s victory over the Philadelphia Union last Saturday helped add to a strong sense of belief running through the Club. He noted that the strength in the depth of the squad was crucial to the victory and will continue to be important throughout the season.
“I thought the subs won us the game against Philadelphia, I really did…Fede [Higuaín], Victor [Ulloa], Sami [Guediri] coming on and giving us real energy, Ryan [Shawcross] coming on was really good, Jay Chapman came on and did a fantastic job for the team. What I said to the guys this morning was, we have a really, really good squad with two players for every position with real quality. Now is our opportunity to show the quality and strength of the squad, to give players opportunities who have been chomping at the bit. Victor Ulloa has been incredible in training, so too has Jay Chapman. Edison Azcona is someone who I think is ready to play in an MLS game, so all of a sudden you have players that are now chomping at the bit to play, to be given the opportunity. The style of play will be non-negotiable, we’re going to play the style of play that we’ve played since I came in.
“For me, the biggest thing about the Philadelphia game was the belief they had in me and the style of play and our training, that was what I felt. It takes time, but the team believed in what we’re trying to do, believed in the tactics, believed in what the philosophy was, and that’s why I think the win was more important than the three points because it gave everybody in the whole Club belief that what we’re doing is right...There was more belief in the project rather than just belief in the three points so I’m happy with what I see. The players that we’ve brought in are beginning to find their feet, to become more vocal, to show their character within the training ground, that’s what I want. We have younger players that are training with us day-in and day-out that are now beginning to push for a starting eleven spot – Josh Penn, Edison Azcona, Drake Callender, Dylan Castanheira – these are all players that I feel are ready to play. I’m really excited, I’m really happy with where we are, but I also know that the growth in this team is massive and they still have a long way to go, and the road is long.”