In many ways, soccer is a simple game, and one of its most fundamental truths is teams must score to win.
For Inter Miami CF head coach Phil Neville, whose side carried a six-game losing streak into Matchday 10 (and were held scoreless in five of those six), simply putting the ball in the back of the net made the difference in Saturday’s 2-1 road win over the Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field.
“I think this league is really simple in that if you defend and play with really good spirit and you have a goal scorer, a [Designated Player] that scores goals, then you're going to be successful,” said Neville, who cited the Herons’ 2-2 PK win over USL Championship foe Miami FC in Wednesday’s US Open Cup match as the true turning point for his team's attack.
“We’ve got two strikers now that scored on Wednesday and two goals tonight from Leo [Campana]. That's three in two games now from our strikers and it's no coincidence then we start winning.”
Campana vs. Martínez
While Neville stressed the importance of all the strikers on Miami's roster, there’s no doubt getting a brace from Campana – their Young DP who missed the first seven matches of the season due to a calf injury – is extra sweet. That’s particularly true since their other DP striker, Josef Martínez, has been benched in their last two matches and is still without a goal contribution through seven appearances (six starts).
“Today I thought he was sensational. I really did,” said Neville of Campana’s third start of the season, the first in which, according to the coach, the Ecuadorian international was truly match fit. “He held up the play. His first goal was really good. His second goal was typical Leo getting across the near post. His heading ability is great. He brought players into the game and he's only going to get better.
“I think if we have Leo Campana fit for the whole season, then we're going to be successful.”
Though Campana’s breakout performance lessens the urgency for goal contributions from Martínez, who was left on the bench for the duration of the match, Neville is still adamant that the 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP winner has a big role to play moving forward.
“There'll be a lot written that [Martínez] didn't get on the pitch, but he will get on the pitch. He will score goals,” said Neville of the former Atlanta United star, who signed in the offseason after reaching a contract buyout at his old club.
“He's part of what we're building here. He's been instrumental in what we've done this week in terms of his spirit and he's helped to the younger players. He's frustrated, but once our goal scorers start scoring, once we start creating chances for them, we will win games of football.”
Outside of Campana’s banner day, Miami were further boosted by the stellar performance of 18-year-old homegrown midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi, who assisted Campana’s first goal of the night with a smartly-flicked header.
“Benja tonight went in and played to the level that I knew he could. … The kid’s gonna be a star, without a shadow of a doubt,” Neville raved of his dual-national who earned a call-up to Argentina’s U-20 team last December.
Working young players into the rotation has become a point of emphasis for Neville this season, so much so that he held a meeting on Thursday to tell them to be ready because they’re “going to play major minutes.”
Cremaschi, in his first MLS season, took that message to heart: "He told us that we're not here as players to get a little bit of minutes and that he really thinks that we could make an impact on this team and be important players for the team, if it's coming off the bench or being a starter. So I feel like him expressing that to us gives us confidence and helps us helps the team.”
Cremenschi and his cohorts will hope to ride that confidence to more points next Saturday when hosting Eastern Conference rival Atlanta United at DRV PNK Stadium (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).