Inter Miami CF head coach Phil Neville claimed his side are showing qualities that other teams did not think they have ahead of their clash with Toronto FC.
The pressure was on Neville’s men amid a seven-game winless streak between May and July, but a five-game unbeaten run has turned things around.
The Herons moved up to ninth with a second consecutive 1-0 win against Columbus Crew last time out and now sit two points adrift of the Eastern Conference playoff positions.
And Neville is reveling in his team’s turn of fortune.
“The players are just beginning to smell something is happening,” Neville said. “You know sometimes you want to play things down, sometimes you want to just keep your feet on the floor, which we will do.
“We’re showing all the qualities that people probably from outside the club didn’t think that this team had.
“And probably, two months ago, I and the players didn’t feel that as well. We probably didn’t know that we had these qualities inside us.”
Toronto remain rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and are facing a sixth consecutive defeat.
The hosts’ playoff hopes appear just a dream now with just 15 points to their name, having conceded a league-high 49 goals, and they come into the game searching answers after losing 2-0 to FC Cincinnati.
“It’s definitely the most challenging season of my personal career,” admitted head coach Javier Perez, who has had to deal with international breaks and injuries recently.
“And most players in the locker room and the staff can say the same thing. I’ve never encountered so many difficulties and, as I said before, when it looks like things cannot go worse, they go worse.
“When we concede a goal, the body language reflects the frustration of the players, the way the season has been developing. We try mentally to overcome these obstacles.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Toronto FC – Yeferson Soteldo
Yeferson Soteldo leads the Toronto ranks for assists with six – two ahead of second-place Michael Bradley – and he provided his team’s last goal against CF Montreal.
Inter Miami CF – Gonzalo Higuain
Gonzalo Higuain netted the winner against the Crew, his ninth of the season – five ahead of the Herons’ second top scorer Robbie Robinson. The Argentine’s five assists take him to 14 goal involvements as he proves to be Neville’s key man.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be Inter Miami’s first MLS match in Canada. Miami and Toronto split the first two meetings between them, each winning once, Miami at home in August and Toronto in its temporary home in Harrison, NJ in November 2020.
– Toronto FC has just 15 points through 23 matches this season. Only five teams in MLS history have had fewer points at this stage of a season, most recently D.C. United in 2013 (13).
– Inter Miami has won four of its last five matches (D1), including a pair of 1-0 wins over Cincinnati and Columbus. Miami has never won three straight matches in its MLS history.
– Toronto FC’s 2-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on Saturday took them to 49 goals conceded on the season, ten more than any other team. It was the league-high 15th time the Reds have allowed more than one goal in their 23 matches this season.
– Inter Miami has kept clean sheets in three consecutive matches for the first time in club history, including a pair of 1-0 wins in its last two matches. Miami managed just two clean sheets in its previous 34 matches (including playoffs) prior to keeping three in a row.