Phil Neville called it “one of our poorest performances.” And yet, Inter Miami CF claimed three “massive” points thanks to a 90th-minute winner by Brek Shea to defeat FC Cincinnati, 1-0, Saturday night.
That’s one of several signs Neville highlighted during his post-match press conference to contend that Miami are trending in the right direction.
“A sign of a good team is when you win and play poorly,” Neville said. “When you score late goals, that’s a really good sign. The spirit in the dressing room is fantastic.”
The drop in form was essentially expected. Neville gave his team three days off following a 0-0 draw against Orlando City SC on Aug. 27 with an eye at a busy stretch that starts with a home match against the Columbus Crew Saturday (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) and continues at Toronto FC on Sept. 14 and home for the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 17.
Neville said he expected the rhythm to suffer, for there to be rust and both were true, especially in Miami’s inability to string many passes together for long stretches.
But he lauded his team’s fight and especially the play of his back three, who he called “sensational.”
Neville would have been disappointed in a second consecutive road draw. Instead, Miami picked up their first road win since a 3-2 victory over FC Cincinnati in May, extending an unbeaten streak to four, with one loss in their last eight.
“Winning away from home in this league, as I’ve experienced, is really difficult,” Neville said. “You’re up against the away crowd, the travel, different conditions, good teams that want to play well in front of their own supporters. To get three points on the road is really good.”
Miami are four points below the Eastern Conference's playoff line in 10th place, yet just one point behind Columbus and Atlanta, the two clubs just in front of them trying to push into playoff position.
But Miami have games in hand on both and their points per game (1.24) is the best of that trio.
“The three points is massive," Neville said. "Columbus have lost tonight away at Orlando. The three points is another sign, another signal, another little notch on our wall that this team never knows when it beaten, never knows when to give up, never knows when to stop trying to win a game of football.”
Now Miami start a critical stretch of three games in eight days, all against teams chasing playoff positioning, beginning with that huge showdown against Columbus at DRV PNK Stadium next Saturday.
“We’re not thinking about winning, we’re not thinking about playoffs – we’re thinking about the next game, performance levels, attitude, behaviors,” Neville said. “And if we keep those behaviors, we’re going to have a really good season.”