Inter Miami

Phil Neville addresses Leonardo Campana's momentum & Gonzalo Higuain's future role at Inter Miami

Lizzy Becherano
Inter Miami CF head coach Phil Neville praises Leonardo Campana for impact on the South Florida side.
Inter Miami CF head coach Phil Neville praises Leonardo Campana for impact on the South Florida side. / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

After a disappointing start to their 2022 Major League Soccer campaign, Inter Miami is turning things around. 

The South Florida side triumphed 2-1 over Atlanta United at DRV PNK Stadium on Sunday as goals from Leonardo Campana and Bryce Duke inspired their fourth consecutive victory in all competitions.

The win saw Phil Neville’s side jump to ninth on the Eastern Conference table with 10 points after previously sitting in last place. 

“I’m immensely proud of the week that we’ve had. Beating Seattle, beating Miami FC, traveling and everything that came with it,” said head coach Neville. 

“One thing I was sure we were going to guarantee was that we’d fight to the very end. We spoke before the game about the set values of the players that are now beginning to rise amongst themselves. I feel as if now, with the results that we’ve been getting, that we’ll start to see a different Inter Miami, and that’s what I’ve wanted all along: one with a clear identity.”

The crowd saw another in-form performance by frontman Campana as he opened up the scoring in the 28th minute before assisting Duke in the second half to secure the three points. 

The forward has now been directly involved in six out of Inter's nine Major League Soccer goals this season, scoring five of them himself. With Sunday’s strike, Campana put himself in between a six-way tie for second place in the MLS Golden Boot race, just one goal behind leaders Sebastian Driussi and Jesus Jimenez.

“I think he knows he's undroppable, I think he knows he's in a rich vein of form and I keep telling him every single day, it's his time. It's his time,” Neville added post-game on Campana. 

“He is going to be a top player. We want him to go to the World Cup. That's his goal, and he’s just gotta keep scoring and scoring. Last season when I was looking at all the other MLS teams, you look at Castellanos at NYC, Buksa in New England, Josef Martinez – every team seems to have a striker that scores goals. Every team seems to have a striker that is their figurehead, that is the anchor that you can always rely on through good and bad, whether you're playing good or whether you’re playing bad, to create and score something. and he is becoming that.”

But Campana is not taking anything for granted. After arriving from Wolves on a season-long loan, the forward is working hard to earn his place on the roster. 

“First of all, I would like to thank my teammates. Without them I couldn't achieve anything – I haven't achieved anything,” he said. 

“I have to keep working, keep proving myself. I have a lot to prove. But things are doing well for us. For me, I think that's important. We have to be working on putting Miami where it belongs.”

Campana replaces Gonzalo Higuain on the starting 11. Though previously unavailable due to injury, he has since returned and been benched by Neville. 

It is no coincidence that Inter Miami has picked up momentum since Campana took over the lone striker position. While he has acknowledged Higuain’s talent and devotion to the South Florida team, that alone will not secure his role as Neville makes the shift to a younger side. 

“For everybody at this football club now, we've got to jump on the train. And Gonzalo is one of those that has to jump on the train. Because it's growing and it's growing fast, and they’re getting more confidence, they’re getting more belief. And everybody's just got to jump on it with them.”

The team returns to the pitch on Saturday against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.