Phil Neville says playing in front of an historic packed crowd against Barcelona will act as a motivating factor as Inter Miami return to MLS action against New York City FC.
Inter were thumped 6-0 by the European heavyweights on Tuesday in a prestige friendly at DRV PNK Stadium, where more than 19,000 supporters were in attendance – a record crowd for the Herons.
Despite the one-sided nature of the scoreline, Neville is hoping to take lessons away from the contest ahead of traveling to an in-form City side on Saturday.
“It was a brilliant occasion to play; you could feel the buzz in the air, the supporters,” Neville said. “We’ve now experienced what a sold out DRV PNK feels like.
“I think from a playing point of view, the game was always going to be, for us, something to enjoy. I thought it was a brilliant learning experience for all involved.”
City have had a free week on the back of beating rivals New York Red Bulls 1-0 last weekend, with that their third league victory in a row.
The Pigeons are second in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Philadelphia Union with a game in hand, but interim boss Nick Cushing is not taking Inter lightly.
“We need to continue to work at being solid and not allowing teams to create chances on us,” he said. “We know they’re going to be dangerous.
“But the nature of the league is that it’s super competitive every week. You are really pushed and really tested.
“We know and respect them and we know they’re a good team, but we know on our day at Yankee Stadium we can get a result.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York City FC – Sean Johnson
New York are looking in good shape at both ends of the pitch. As well as keeping back-to-back clean sheets, they have also scored in 12 successive matches.
Inter will look to get at their opponents this weekend, but good luck getting past Johnson in the City goal, with no keeper boasting more shutouts than his 10 this season.
Inter Miami CF – Gonzalo Higuain
Neville is adamant that the heavy loss to Barcelona will not dent the confidence of his side, who battled back from two goals down to beat Charlotte FC 3-2 last week.
Higuain was again on the scoresheet in that match to make it goals in back-to-back league matches, suggesting he is potentially about to hit peak form.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– New York City have won all four of their MLS matches against Inter Miami. NYCFC are the only team Inter have faced more than two times without ever taking a point.
– City have won three straight MLS matches, and 10 of their last 15 (D4 L1), following consecutive 1-0 victories over FC Dallas and the Red Bulls. NYCFC’s 34 points since mid-April are the most in MLS in that span.
– Inter Miami overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Charlotte 3-2 last week. The comeback marked the first time the Herons had avoided defeat in a match in which they trailed by at least two goals, having lost the first 17 such occurrences in the club’s MLS history.
– Valentin Castellanos scored NYCFC’s lone goal in their win over the Red Bulls, with that his fourth straight MLS game with a goal and his 50th overall in the regular season. At 23 years, 287 days, Castellanos became the second-youngest player in league history to score 50 regular season goals (Diego Fagundez (23 years, 256 days).
– Higuain and Emerson Rodriguez came off the bench to score the equaliser and winner for Miami last week, the ninth and 10th goals scored by Inter subs this season. Only Los Angeles FC (12) has more goals from substitutes in 2022.