It's a win that hits differently for Inter Miami CF.
The Herons rallied from two goals down to defeat Charlotte FC, 3-2, Saturday night at DRV PNK Stadium on Emerson Rodriguez’s stoppage-time winner, the U22 Initiative signing’s first MLS goal. Gonzalo Higuain came off the bench to score for a second straight match, netting a 72nd-minute equalizer, and Robert Taylor got the comeback rolling with a spectacular solo effort in the 59th minute.
It was the type of win that can galvanize a club and provide evidence of Miami's cultural shift after an offseason of roster upheaval.
"They're creating their own culture, they're creating their own identity," Neville said of the reworked third-year club. "And I suppose the identity that we're seeing is that this team never knows when it's beat, it never knows when to give up, and it scores late goals. I think they're a team that scores late goals and never knows when it's beat. I think it's a team that's going to be successful in the future."
“I walked into the cafeteria at nine o'clock after we got our staff meetings and everything, and there was 20, 25 players laughing, joking, energized and it inspired me,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it for a long time.”
Still, Neville was furious at halftime with his team trailing 2-0 on Yordy Reyna’s first-half brace for Charlotte. Then a simple talk ensued.
“Put the ball in the back of the net. It was as simple as that,” Neville said of his message. “It was put the ball in the back of the net and they did and they always do – they always deliver, they never ever ever let me down as a coach or let this football club down this season since we've been playing. They give everything they can. I think they needed that little bit of a jolt at halftime.”
Pozuelo was instrumental in the come-from-behind result, making a good first impression on his debut. The 2020 Landon Donovan MLS MVP winner completed 91.7 percent of his passes, including three key passes, and won half of his 14 duels.
It was in stark contrast to what Neville saw on the training ground Thursday morning.
“If you had looked at him in training on Thursday, you say no way he’ll get through the first 15 minutes. He looked older than me. But I thought he was sensational,” Neville said of their new Designated Player.
“When everyone else is running 100 miles an hour, he has the composure just to put his foot on the ball, take the extra touch, maneuver the ball, protect the ball away from the defender, and make the pass that matters.”
Big picture-wise, the win was huge for Miami, who were winless in three games before Week 21.
The Herons are ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, but they're just one point below the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line, a spot currently occupied by Charlotte ahead of Sunday’s seven matches.
“Today is a very important day. We had lost against Philadelphia and against Orlando, and losing three games straight would have been really tough,” Higuain said through a translator. "So, today’s victory was important because we’re playing against a direct rival. The locker room is very happy because this was a deserved win.”