It has not been a great start to the season for Inter Miami star Rodolfo Pizarro.
The 27-year-old has no goals and one assist across six games and hit the bench in favor of Federico Higuain two games ago, with Pizarro watching on as his side scored a season-high three goals en route to a win over FC Cincinnati. Then he missed last weekend's loss to Chicago Fire FC entirely with a minor strain in his hip. This week, the Mexico international was left off his country's Nations League squad.
Head coach Phil Neville has grown accustomed to questions about his struggling star of late.
“A lot of people talk about Rodolfo," Neville told media on a virtual press conference. "There’s lots of speculation about Rodolfo but what I keep telling everybody, and I tell Rodolfo especially, we love him at this football club. He’s a big player, he’s a big part of this football club."
This year, Pizarro is fifth on the team in chances created and 10th in expected assists. Higuain betters Pizarro in both categories despite playing 100 fewer minutes.
Pizarro had four goals and five assists in 19 appearances last year in Miami's expansion season.
“In terms of his work ethic and sacrifice for the team, he’s been as good as anyone," Neville said. "That’s not within a shadow of a doubt, but he probably hasn’t gotten his reward in the areas he wants to contribute more than anything. We’ve spoke at length at him being an impact player for the team — goals, assists and key passes — I suppose that’s the area we need to see more from Rodolfo. But in terms of his work ethic and attitude? He’s been fantastic for the team every single day.”
The good news is that Pizarro has been training all week, is recovered from the minor strain, and is expected to play against D.C. United on Saturday (8 pm ET | MLS Live on ESPN+). Miami will play in front of a sold-out crowd for the first time in the club's existence, playing most of last year with no fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s about us providing a platform for him to go out against D.C. and start enjoying his football again, playing with more freedom and be that level of player we know he can be," Neville said.