The Argentine legend has a sterling résumé and a belief that, even at the age of 34, he should be starting for the Herons.
He’s not, with 21-year-old Leo Campana taking over the club's lead striker role. But when Inter Miami needed a jolt off the bench to secure three massive points against a New York Red Bulls team that, until Sunday, hadn’t lost on the road this season, Higuain answered the bell.
“I was super, super pleased with Gonzalo because he's hurting, he’s really hurt,” Neville said. “He’s a proud guy who wants to play every game, but knows at this moment in time, his role might be just that for this moment in time, but I thought he was different class when he came on.”
Higuain, who entered for Campana in the 74th minute, was part of a group of five who came off the bench to change the match for Miami, who entered the match winless in their last four.
“I think what you saw was the match-winners, really the people that won us the game, were the substitutions that came on,” Neville said.
While Neville has always touted the need for a deep roster, he said on Sunday that’s especially true of the club’s wingers.
“We're just gonna have to have four wingers that are just fresh all the time. But they need to be fit,” Neville said. “Robbie needs to deliver for us. Robbie needs to be fit, Robbie needs to now say do I want to join the party? Do I want to jump on the bus because the rest are.”
Neville said he rewatched last year’s 4-0 home loss to the Red Bulls in the lead-up to Sunday’s match and was “quite embarrassed really” in how much the visitors “bullied” them.
He told his team about getting the first punch in on the Red Bulls, but instead they started poorly. A 29th-minute goal by Ariel Lassiter, his first for Miami, changed things for the hosts.
“Especially at home, we're starting to play good football,” Lassiter said. "We’re starting to know when and where we can attack, good possession of the ball when we can and we're getting clear opportunities to score, so once one goes I feel like we have the players to make it two, three, four. So it's just a matter of defending well, staying organized, making sure that we give ourselves an opportunity to win each game.”
Miami are one point below the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line. The Herons have picked up results against two of the Eastern Conference’s best with a midweek draw at Philadelphia and this win over the Red Bulls. At DRV PNK Stadium, they are 3W-0L-1D in their last four matches in Fort Lauderdale.
“There's a great spirit and togetherness and there's a great belief that we're heading in the right direction,” Neville said. "We’re now beginning to make DRV PNK a little bit of a tough place to go, where it's been easy for teams in the past.”