Phil Neville is taking great delight in proving his doubters wrong and is confident Inter Miami CF will continue to climb up the Eastern Conference.
The Englishman was under intense pressure after recently losing six games in a row, culminating in a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of New England Revolution. Inter was bottom of the overall MLS standings at that point but since has won three, drawn two and lost only one of its last six matches.
Wednesday’s last-gasp 3-2 comeback win over Chicago Fire lifted Inter up to 12th in the East, within eight points of the playoffs with two games in hand play.
Neville will now be looking to maintain the recent momentum with three points Saturday against Toronto, which have collected the fewest points of all 27 MLS clubs this year.
“Our will and our character has finally changed,” Neville said. “Successful teams have those qualities of never giving up. All I want to see is consistent behaviors. We’ll keep climbing the Eastern Conference. When you prove people wrong, it feels and tastes a lot better.”
Toronto itself experienced a mini-revival when Javier Perez took over from Chris Armas last month, but is now five straight matches without a win, losing the last two of those.
Unperturbed by the 2-1 and 1-0 losses to the New England Revolution and Atlanta United, respectively, Perez is not yet ruling out a charge for the top seven.
“All that we can do is to put together solid performances and the points are going to come,” said Perez, who will remain in charge for the rest of the season. “The playoffs are absolutely a possibility. We have 42 points still remaining and I am convinced this team has enough firepower and enough in the tank to make a final push.
“We have to focus on performances – we can’t just look at the table. It has to be one game after the next.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Inter Miami CF – Federico Higuain
The 36-year-old striker may have gone 13 matches since last finding the back of the net, but Toronto will need no reminding of Higuain’s quality. He has scored 11 goals against the Reds, 10 of those with New York Red Bulls and one with D.C. United. Higuain is tied with Chris Wondolowski for the most goals by any player against Toronto FC in MLS.
Toronto FC – Patrick Mullins
Jozy Altidore has been ruled out for six weeks after undergoing ankle surgery, weakening Toronto in an area where it has already been struggling this term. Perez heavily rotated in midweek, and it remains to be seen who he will field up top against Inter. Should Mullins get the nod again, he will have to improve on a return of zero goals in 15 league appearances this season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Toronto beat Inter Miami in the only previous meeting between the sides in November 2020. Ayo Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo scored second-half goals after Blaise Matuidi had put Inter in front before halftime.
– Inter came from behind to beat the Fire 3-2 for its third straight home victory, the longest streak in the club’s MLS history. All eight of Inter Miami’s home wins have been by one-goal margins.
– Toronto’s 1-0 loss to Atlanta United marked the 16th consecutive match in which it has allowed at least one goal. This is tied for the second-longest run without a clean sheet in team history after a 17-match streak from August 2011 to May 2012.
– Toronto has allowed an MLS-high 41 goals this season, allowing 20 goals in the first half and 21 in the second half, both most in MLS as well. Toronto is the only team to allow 20 goals in either half this season.