Columnist: Jonathan Sigal

Inter Miami part ways with head coach Phil Neville

Phil Neville MIA - up close

Inter Miami CF have parted ways with head coach Phil Neville, the club announced Thursday evening. Assistant coach Jason Kreis was also let go.

With nearly half of their 2023 MLS season completed, the Herons currently sit last (15th place) in the Eastern Conference table with a 5W-10L-0D record.

Javier Morales will lead Inter Miami on an interim basis after being an assistant on Neville's staff. Assistant coach Darren Powell, goalkeeper coach Sebastián Saja and assistant coach/performance analyst Alec Scott will remain in their current roles.

"We are and always have been an ambitious club. Sometimes the path to growth involves difficult decisions and today is one of those moments," Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas said in a release.

"We are grateful to Phil for the dedication and tenacity he brought to Inter Miami. His positive contributions are embedded in our team culture and he represented our club with class and dignity."

Neville: Big picture

The English manager originally joined Miami ahead of the 2021 campaign, their second-ever MLS season. He compiled a 36W-43L-11D record across all competitions, only reaching the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in one season (2022) behind the one-two punch of legendary Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuaín (since retired) and former MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo (now playing in Turkey).

Neville, a close friend of Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham, formally joined Miami on the same day (January 2021) as chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson, a former Seattle Sounders FC executive. They worked in close tandem to reshape Inter Miami’s roster despite the club facing still-ongoing sanctions from improper Designated Player classifications during their expansion season (2020).

The Miami managerial spot was Neville’s first lead role in men’s club soccer, having previously steered the England women’s national team and taking assistant roles with Valencia CF, Manchester United and the England men's Under-21s. He signed a contract extension last November.

"I would like to thank the Inter Miami CF ownership group for their trust and making me a part of this project; the players and staff for their impressive commitment, dedication and hard work; and the fans for their unwavering support for the club since day one," Neville said in a release.

Added Beckham: "Phil has made a real contribution to the culture of our club with his qualities as a leader and knowledge as a coach. Sometimes in this game we have to make the toughest decisions and sadly we feel the time is right to make a change."

Up-and-down form

Miami have alternated between winning and losing streaks this year, and have been hamstrung by long-term injuries to central midfielders Gregore (foot) and Jean Mota (knee). That paved way for increased contributions by homegrown midfielders Benjamin Cremaschi and David Ruiz, as well as the emergency signing of Ecuador international Dixon Arroyo.

Neville, who drew headlines last season when calling out Higuaín’s performances, took a similar tact with marquee offseason signing Josef Martínez earlier this year. The Atlanta United legend and former MLS MVP has proven hot and cold alongside strike partner Leonardo Campana, though in early May became the fastest player in league history to reach 100 regular-season goals.

Miami have also received limited contributions from DP midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who's fallen out of the Mexican national team picture. Among the top 10 most-expensive incoming MLS transfers, Pizarro has just 7g/13a in 54 regular-season matches.

What's next?

Looking ahead, perhaps the question around Inter Miami is whether or not they land Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time. They’ve been linked for months to the Argentine superstar, drawing speculative transfer headlines as Saudi Arabia, FC Barcelona and South Beach are all floated as possible destinations. The 35-year-old is set to depart Paris Saint-Germain this summer, possibly reuniting with former club teammate Sergio Busquets in Miami or elsewhere.

Whether Messi comes or not, Neville never quite got Miami’s offense firing on all cylinders this year, as they've scored just 14 goals in 15 matches (tied for third-fewest in MLS). Conversely, their defense (19 goals conceded) is middle-of-the-pack and has solid pieces to build around in goalkeeper Drake Callender, center backs Kamal Miller and Sergii Kryvstov, right back DeAndre Yedlin and more.

Miami start their post-Neville era on Saturday when hosting D.C. United (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), only sitting five points below the East’s playoff line. They’re also into the US Open Cup quarterfinals and will visit USL Championship side Birmingham Legion FC next Wednesday, hoping to reach the semifinals in the historic competition.

Morales, who joined Inter Miami in early 2019 as an academy coach, was elevated to the first team ahead of the 2023 season. The former midfielder enjoyed a successful 11-year stay in MLS with Real Salt Lake and later on FC Dallas.