Inter Miami Advance But Coach Neville Is Not Happy

Fort Lauderdale, FL – A 3-1 triumph over League One squad South Georgia Tormenta FC at DRV Pink Stadium put Inter Miami CF into the Round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The Herons will face in-state rival Orlando City SC in the next round at Exploria Stadium. After the match, Phil Neville was not very pleased with the result, and he made some statements that are worth delving into.

Neville’s words at the press conference were perhaps his harshest all season, touching upon several aspects of the team’s performance. 

“We’re in the next round, that’s the only thing I’d say we can take from the night. I thought the performance was unacceptable…totally unacceptable for a team like Inter Miami.”

Inter Miami’s starting XI consisted of all first-team players going against a third-division team. The first half belonged to the Tormenta, and if not for Callender’s spectacular saves the Herons would have found themselves down multiple goals.

On paper, Miami should have been the far superior team, and a 3-1 result would make you think they were, but the reality was that they were not. Neville made it clear to his team after the game that although they won, he was unhappy with their poor showing,

“We got embarrassed, we had international players in the first half, we had players we invested a lot of money in, and I thought they were by far the better team, and that’s why I think it’s unacceptable and I told the players that.”

The Herons had several players with international game experience under their belts start the game against the Tormenta FC. The expectations are that these types of players make the difference when they are on the pitch. For IMCF neither the experienced players nor the high salaried ones had much weight in the first half of the game, and this is worrisome. Miami was facing a third division team that, although a quality squad, had no business dominating the Herons in the initial stages of the match. Neville’s words are darts directed at his player’s egos and attitudes. He pointed out that the attitude of the team for the game seemed nonchalant, and that this is not something that they can simply rev up whenever they choose to,

“Attitude it’s not a tap you can just turn on, it doesn’t work like that.”

At this point of the season, if the players are not motivated to go out and compete at their best in every game they play, it signifies to me that there is a disconnect between players and the coach. Professional athletes should be self-motivated, but the head coach must transmit this attitude and desire down to his squad. The “identity” or “culture” of Miami has been a point of discussion all season long. The team has been trying to find its identity, but in my opinion that begins with the man in charge. Phil seems to be very clear with what he wants from his team, but the message appears to be lost on his players. There’s no excuse for players not to approach every game with the proper mindset and attitude necessary to play at their highest levels. If this is an issue on the team, then Phil and his players are all at fault, but as the leader, Neville shoulders the most responsibility. 

The coach was pretty frank about the fact that some players have been asking him for more playing time, but when given the chance against Southern Georgia Tormenta FC, they did not take advantage of the moment.

“Players got opportunities tonight that have been asking and banging on my door to ask for opportunities. Tonight we saw probably why they have not been playing, and why they won’t play on Saturday.”

Players like Emerson Rodriguez, Mo Adams, Jairo Quinteros, and Gonzalo Higuain have not received large amounts of minutes in recent games for various reasons. Against the Tormenta, none of these players did anything particularly wonderful to change that. I don’t know what particular players the coach was talking about, but I would venture to say some of these guys could be in that group. Leonardo Campana and DeAndre Yedlin in my opinion are the only players that have consistently played at a high level for this team during the current campaign. The rest of the roster has been inconsistent, except for Drake Callender. He has made the most of the opportunities he has been given by his coach.

“Drake Callender is challenging now to be the number one of this football club with his performances.”

The young dynamic goalkeeper has been rock solid when defending the Miami goal. Callender has been fabulous, and if Phil gives him the chance to be the main goalkeeper for this team, I don’t see him relinquishing that role. Nick Marsman is a very good veteran goalie who has suffered various injuries during the season, and that could lead to Callender’s ascension.

Ironically, the victory over the Tormenta left more questions than answers for Miami. It’s going to be interesting to see how Neville approaches the game on Saturday night against D.C. United. Phil’s strong words need to be followed by a strong performance by his players, against a team that they need to defeat at home. DRV Pink Stadium needs to witness a win on Saturday night that checks off all the boxes and has fans heading home satisfied. 

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