Inter Miami CF (11W-5D-17L, 38 points) fell 1-3 to New York City FC in the final match at DRV PNK Stadium of the 2021 season.
Inter Miami made three changes to the starting lineup from its last match, with Blaise Matuidi, Indiana Vassilev and Federico Higuaín returning to the XI in place of Kelvin Leerdam, Jay Chapman and Rodolfo Pizarro. Federico Higuaín was honored on the occasion with the captain’s armband for the first time as an Inter Miami player as he lined up for his final home match at DRV PNK Stadium following the announcement of his retirement.
Inter Miami opened the match with the most threatening chance of the early moments. In the 17th minute, Matuidi slipped a through ball into the center of the box for Gonzalo Higuaín, who curled an attempt on goal but Sean Johnson reacted and denied his shot with a low outstretched arm. Five minutes later, another chance came for the hosts when Vassilev dribbled on the edge of the box, evading defenders, and played a ball out wide to Lewis Morgan, who curled a shot from outside the corner of the box that went wide.
The team, however, was forced into an early change as Nick Marsman came off injured in the 30th minute and was replaced by John McCarthy, making his first appearance since July.
In the 33rd minute, New York City took the lead. Valentín Castellanos dribbled to his right outside of the box and fired an unstoppable shot into the left corner of the net to make it 0-1. The scoreline would hold until halftime.
Inter Miami once again opened strong to start the half. In the 53rd minute, a corner from Gonzalo Higuaín eventually fell to Federico Higuaín on the right side of the box and the midfielder clipped a half volley back towards goal that drew a save from Johnson and hit the underside of the bar, narrowly avoiding crossing the line before bouncing out. The action was his last before leaving the field in his final match at DRV PNK Stadium, as he was subbed off with Pizarro coming on in his pace. Higuaín received a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the field of play for the final time in South Florida.
Moments later, the hosts scored an equalizer; a corner fell to Nicolás Figal in the box after a touch from Leandro González Pirez, and Figal powered a strike past the keeper from close range to make it 1-1. The goal was his first as an Inter Miami player while the assist was LGP’s fourth of 2021.
In the 60th minute, however, New York reclaimed the lead when Maxi Moralez slipped a through ball behind the defense for Castellanos, who found the back of the net with his finish for his second of the day and a 1-2 lead. They extended their lead in the 83rd minute with sharp combination play that resulted in Castellanos laying a pass off to Talles Magno in the box, who struck a composed finish to make it 1-3.
The scoreline held through the final whistle, resulting in a loss for Inter Miami that eliminated the team from playoff contention.
"The work that we’ve got to do to become winners is in front of us," said head coach Phil Neville. This team should be in the playoffs, without a shadow of doubt, with the quality that we’ve got...We’ve got the best supporters in the country and that is our biggest strength, that is our x-factor and it makes me even more determined to be successful at this futbol club next season.”
Farewell Federico Higuaín
"The second [focus] was to give Federico [Higuaín] the best sending off that we could and within that we wanted Federico to start, we wanted Federico to [be] captain, we wanted him to go out to the start of the game with his children and create a memory that will last with him forever and that the whole of the club would pay him such respects. We got that," said Neville.
“I’ve really had a special connection with Fede. I think he’s a great professional since day one until today he’s left it all on the pitch. He’s left it all. And we’re sad too because we wanted to give him also a good farewell, a good win for him but we need more people like Fede on and off the pitch,” added Nicolás Figal.
Fan Appreciation Match Presented by Publix
Inter Miami hosted Fan Appreciation Match presented by Publix to honor its fans for their unwavering support in Inter Miami’s first season fully opened to the public, with special events, deals and more around DRV PNK Stadium.
Publix hosted a large activation in the fan zone, including a Publix food truck, and a Publix Maximus trailer with a DJ booth and LED screen for fans to enjoy. Publix also gifted 15,000 fans honorary captain’s armbands as they entered DRV PNK Stadium. During pregame, the team also had a t-shirt toss.
Following the match, Inter Miami CF First Team players and staff thanked the fans and La Familia with a lap around the stadium and special giveaways.
Inter Miami will close the 2021 regular season on Sunday, Nov. 7 when it travels to Gillette Stadium to take on the Supporters’ Shield champion New England Revolution at 3:30 p.m. ET.