Inter Miami dealt injury blow: Leo Campana, Gonzalo Higuain exit vs. San Jose

On a positive note Wednesday night, Inter Miami CF moved closer to their Audi MLS Cup Playoffs goal with a 1-0 win at the San Jose Earthquakes.

But that result, which leaves them at eighth place in a jampacked Eastern Conference table, trailing Charlotte FC for the last postseason spot on the wins tiebreaker but level on 29 points, also included some tough blows.

Star strikers Leondardo Campana (leg) and Gonzalo Higuain (jaw) both exited prematurely with injuries after a rare start together. Campana subbed out in the 22nd minute for Ariel Lassiter, while Higuain did the same in the 72nd minute for Emerson Rodriguez.

With a quick turnaround for Saturday’s trip to CF Montréal (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), head coach Phil Neville has called the Ecuadorian youngster “definitely probably out” and the Argentine veteran a “major doubt.” That makes it next-man-up time.

“We’ve invested in the squad and we’ve got plenty of players that can come in, that are ready to play, that want to play, that now have the opportunity to play,” Neville said.

The strikers have been instrumental to Miami’s progress in 2022, combining to score 15 of the Herons’ 27 goals (55.5%) and assist on three more. Both have won MLS Player of the Week presented by Continental Tire honors this year, too, with Campana taking home Week 6 honors and Higuain doing the same in Week 23.

Further, much of their season’s first half was defined by Neville’s decision to prefer Campana in the No. 9 role over Higuain. The coaching move, on paper, translated into opting for a U22 Initiative player who’s on loan from Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers over a Designated Player who’s played for storied clubs like Real Madrid, Juventus and more.

Miami will have options, but replacing their production won’t be easy – should the expected absences linger.

“With our two center forwards off the pitch, we played [Alejandro] Pozuelo in the false 9, which I thought he played really well,” Neville said of their adjustment at San Jose. “So we’re just going to have to take it day-to-day with Gonzalo.”

IMCF have 11 regular-season games remaining, and they’ll enter Montréal as the hosts climbed to third place in the East during Week 24’s early portion, earning a 2-1 comeback win at Columbus Crew. Neville knows a massive task awaits, and depth will be tested at Stade Saputo with points at a premium.

“We’re going to need all our squad on Saturday against Montréal,” Neville said, with Campana coming off right MCL troubles. “We’re going to the other end of the [conitnent] again to play … and we’ve just got to get on with it and be ready for what is going to be a real big game against what I feel is one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.”