Higuain brothers expected to start for Inter Miami in ‘do-or-die’ game vs. Cincinnati

·4 min read

The mood around Inter Miami’s training ground has been “night and day” since Wednesday, coach Phil Neville said, following the team’s 3-0 home victory over Toronto. It was a pivotal win that halted a six-game losing slide and kept alive the club’s chances of sneaking into the playoffs.

It was Miami’s first win by three goals in franchise history and, Neville said, the first time all season he was able to sit back and relax for the final 20 minutes of a game.

Miami hopes to build on that positive energy with a home win against last-place FC Cincinnati on Saturday (8 p.m., My33, CW34). Cincinnati has lost eight games in a row, including a 4-3 heartbreaker on a 94th-minute goal by Chicago on Wednesday. It has lost all three previous games against Miami.

Saturday’s game will be a homecoming for Cincinnati interim coach Tyrone Marshall, the former Jamaican national team star who played for FIU and the Miami Fusion.

“That win Wednesday has given everyone a lift,” Neville said. “We now approach a game against Cincinnati who have got, similar to Toronto, an interim manager, and we’ve beaten them twice this year. They probably haven’t got anything to play for apart from pride.

“They’ve got some dangerous exciting players, and every time we’ve played them they’ve given us a tough game … but it‘s a great opportunity for us at home to build on what we saw the other night. The players had fun and the supporters had fun watching us, so I just want that feeling again.”

Neville said he will likely go with a similar attack-minded system and lineup, starting Federico Higuain, who turns 37 on Monday, at playmaker with his younger brother, 33-year-old Gonzalo, at forward.

Lewis Morgan, who spent much of the season as a stop-gap right wingback, was happy to be back as an attacking winger against Toronto and will probably play there again on Saturday.

“When Fede plays with Gonzalo there’s a tremendous trust between them; Gonzalo knows that Fede will feed him the pass, so that means Gonzalo can stay high up, which I always think is the best place for Gonzalo to be,” Neville said. “It’s where he’s most effective and dangerous.”

The coach said when the Higuains play together they need speed players in wide areas to compensate, which is why Morgan and Indiana Vassilev were able to stretch Toronto’s defense. Neville said Gonzalo has shown glimpses of partnerships with other teammates but is still most comfortable with his brother.

Miami will be missing defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who is suspended for accumulation of yellow cards. Defenders Nico Figal (calf) and Kieran Gibbs (hamstring) and midfielder Victor Ulloa (quad) remain out with injuries after missing multiple games.

Midfielder Jay Chapman (ankle) and midfielder/captain Gregore sustained injuries in the Toronto game and are questionable for Saturday. Neville said Chapman is “60-40.” Gregore is more likely to play.

Also, forward Robbie Robinson has a stomach bug and will be a game-day decision. Neville said as of Friday there were only 12 field players fully healthy, so the team petitioned for and qualified for the MLS Extreme Hardship Rule, which allows for short-term player call-ups. They added 6-6 center back Aime Mabika from their USL Fort Lauderdale SC team, as they did for the Oct. 9 game against the New York Red Bulls.

The roster is so decimated that the team did not do any field training on Friday. Players just did recovery work indoors.

Inter Miami is six points away from the seventh-place playoff line with four games remaining and likely needs to win all four games to have a chance.

“We can’t leave anything in the dressing room, we’ve got to give every ounce of energy, can’t leave anything in the tank,” Neville said. “Just go until you can’t run no more, and I’ll bring someone else in. We’re at that point where it’s do or die. Win [Saturday] or our season’s over.”

Morgan remains optimistic.

“Football changes so quickly,” Morgan said. “We were on the losing streak earlier and we bounced back so well from that disappointment, so it’s not out of realm of possibility we can do it again.

“People can write you off, you win one game, and all of a sudden it’s six points. With momentum in football, you just never know, so we need to just keep taking care of what we can, which is winning games and then whatever happens, happens.”

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