Nobody knows better than Gonzalo Higuain that he did not live up to his reputation or his $7 million salary with Inter Miami last season.
The Argentine forward, one of the most prolific scorers in Europe over a decade, joined Miami from Juventus in September with the expectation he would boost goal production. His transition to MLS was tougher than he imagined.
He scored one goal in nine games — off a free kick — and missed two games, one for a red-card suspension and the playoff opener against Nashville SC after testing positive for COVID-19. Higuain is hungry to get back to top form entering Sunday’s 2021 season opener at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy (3 p.m., ABC).
“Last year was unusual because of this awful pandemic that consumed the world,” he said. “I got here late, I had to adapt quickly to new players, new style of play, a totally different league. Honestly, I suffered. I thought I would adapt better, but it was tougher than I anticipated. It is a difficult league and I struggled. This year, now that I know the league, I will work hard to improve and try to be a positive leader.”
Higuain was named one of four team captains on Saturday, along with Blaise Matuidi, Victor Ulloa and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Coach Phil Neville instructed Higuain to stay closer to the box than he did last year.
“When I was viewing a lot of the games from last year, I think a couple of things. One, Gonzalo didn’t have that much luck in front of goal, the amount of times the keeper made great saves, or he hit the crossbar, post, so luck played a part,” Neville said. “But the things we’ve been working on a lot is getting him into the box a lot more than what we saw last year.
“When the crosses are coming in from left or right, make sure he is in the right areas to score the goals we know he can score. He loves to get involved in the play, him and Rodolfo link up really well in those little spaces, but what we’ve told him is when ball is coming into the box that is when chances are being created and he needs to be in that area. He’s a vital player for us. I’m excited about how well he can do this season.”
Higuain, 33, is not fazed by the pressure.
“I have spent more than 15 years playing under pressure, since I was 19 years old, so it’s not new to me,” he said. “I like the challenge of coming to this league and potentially making history with this club. I didn’t come here to be just another player, or to vacation. On the contrary. I came here to help Inter Miami reach the top.”