The soccer world is about to go on a 16-day FIFA international break and Inter Miami – riding a five-game unbeaten streak at home – hopes to head into the layoff on a high note with a home win over the Portland Timbers on Saturday night.
Miami players DeAndre Yedlin (USA), Damion Lowe (Jamaica), Robert Taylor (Finland), and Edison Azcona (Dominican Republic) were called up to their national teams for the four-game window. The rest of the squad will have no games until the MLS season resumes June 19 with a road game against Atlanta United.
“This is the end of a real tough stretch, but it’s been a good stretch, and we want to finish the momentum,” Miami coach Phil Neville said Friday before training. “We feel as if we’re playing really well. There’s a great togetherness and everybody’s fit.”
Other than goalkeeper Nick Marsman, whom Neville said will not be ready to return until after the international break, the coach expects to have a full squad to choose from. Drake Callender, whom Neville said is the most in-form keeper in the league right now, will keep the starting job for now.
He said his team is still hurting and has “fire in the bellies” after Wednesday night’s penalty kick shootout loss to Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 32.
“We felt as if we deserved more and the last two days I’ve been taking head counts and every single player wants to play (Saturday), so that’s a good sign,” Neville said. “They’re angry they lost at the final penalty kick, which is a disastrous way to end any game.”
Inter Miami played 131 minutes on Wednesday and Portland, last year’s MLS finalist, will come in with fresh legs after no mid-week game.
Neville said he considered resting midfielder Jean Mota on Saturday, but the Brazilian, who played the full game and scored against Orlando, is insisting he wants to play even though he was cramping at the end of Wednesday’s game.
“You think, `Shall I rest him?’ but the boy is hungry,” Neville said. “For such a small guy in stature, he’s got a massive heart and he will be our key player again on Saturday.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is at 8 p.m. It will be televised on CBS4 and UniMas and the radio broadcast is on 790 The Ticket.
Inter Miami (4-6-3) is aiming to extend its home unbeaten run after four wins and a tie. The streak began on April 9 with a 3-2 win over the New England Revolution, followed by a 2-1 victory against Atlanta United, a 3-1 win over USL League One team South Georgia Tormenta in the U.S. Open Cup, a 2-2 tie against D.C. United and a 2-0 win over New York Red Bulls last weekend.
The Timbers (3-5-6) are coming off a 2-0 road loss against the Philadelphia Union. Midfielder Yimmi Chará is the team leader this season with three goals and four assists.
Both teams will be wearing their “Primeblue” jerseys, which are made of recycled materials and are part of a league-wide initiative with adidas to raise awareness about plastic pollution. Inter Miami center back Lowe was among the players who participated in a beach cleanup last week. “I am from Jamaica, the beaches are beautiful. They say in Jamaica `Cleanliness is godliness’, so that’s something I am high on and believe in.”
HARVEY NEVILLE UPDATE
Neville’s son Harvey, a midfielder/defender, has been awaiting his green card for a chance to be promoted from the Inter Miami second team to the first team. He said the long wait has been frustrating, but his father says they finally got an immigration appointment in July.
“He came into the season hoping because you speak to lawyers and immigration and they say February or March, but you really know it’s not,” Phil Neville said. “The last three or four weeks he’s dipped mentally because he can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and he wants to be challenging for an MLS place, and then two or three days ago we got the e-mail about the appointment so now he has a spring in his step.”
SOCCER EQUIPMENT CHARITY DRIVE
This Saturday, Inter Miami is hosting a soccer equipment drive for underprivileged youth. Fans are encouraged to donate new or slightly used equipment at the Fan Equipment Drop-Off Zone on the south side of the stadium from 5-8 p.m. Recommended items include: soccer balls, cleats, shin guards, socks, goalkeeper gloves, jerseys, shorts.