MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Major League Soccer’s 26th season kicks off this weekend – and one of the games includes Inter Miami CF hosting the LA Galaxy, a match up 13 months in the making.
Inter Miami’s home opener will take place at the newly named DRV PNK Stadium in front of a limited capacity of fans this Sunday, April 18 at 3 p.m.READ MORE: Business Owners In South Florida Say They're Struggling To Get Employees Back To Work
“The dial just got dialed up a little bit. Everyone just became more focused. Everyone got a little more excited,” said new head coach Phil Neville.
Things feel different around DRV PNK Stadium. Thursday marked the final open training session and final press conferences before Inter Miami opens their season.
“These are the best moments. This is why I took the job. This is why you get into football. For the big moments when you actually go out there and play for the three points,” said Neville. “You’re playing to get up in that league to start the season well. To test yourself against the best managers and best players.”
The last game against the LA Galaxy was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This time, Neville is at the helm for the first time in a competitive match since being named the team’s head coach in January.
Neville has been very open about the fact that the style of play in the MLS is something he’s adjusting to while his new players continue to get used to him.
“He’s very hands on, and I think him and his coaching staff are very, very detailed,” said midfielder Lewis Morgan. “In the preparation they’re very clear in their identity and how they want to play and it leaves us players with no doubt of what’s expected of us.”
The match, which is sold out, will be just the third in which Inter Miami fans will be permitted to attend at home. The club has won the previous two games, defeating Orlando City 2-1 on Oct. 24, 2020, and FC Cincinnati 2-1 on Decision Day.READ MORE: ‘Pretty Big Pay Package’: Broward School Board Negotiates $743K Exit Deal For Embattled Supt. Robert Runcie
This matchup could feature the reunion of former teammates and rivals – Inter Miami’s Gonzalo Higuain, Neville, Rodolfo Pizarro, Ryan Shawcross and LA Galaxy’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Victor Vázquez.
Something fans can look forward to is a hungrier Higuain. The international star admits he struggled joining the club midseason.
“I suffered and struggled more than I thought I would. It cost me a little to adapt to the team,” said Higuain. “I didn’t come here to be one more player. I didn’t come here for vacation. I came here to take the club to its highest levels.”
Attention to detail seems to be permeating through the facility – from Inter Miami owner and President of Soccer Operations David Beckham’s constant presence around the club, to Neville’s hands on style. Even players took it upon themselves to start offseason workouts early to prove they can meet high expectations.
“I don’t think anyone really on our team would say that they were at their best last year, and I definitely include myself in that,” Morgan said. “We’ve all recognized that. We all want to put that right.”
In addition, Beckham played for the LA Galaxy for six seasons, giving Inter Miami players another reason to put on a good performance for their boss.
Eleven players may be eligible to make their Inter Miami debuts on Sunday including George Acosta, Edison Azcona, Drake Callender, Dylan Castanheira, Gregore de Magalhães da Silva, Joevin Jones, Kelvin Leerdam, Josh Penn, Patrick Seagrist, Ryan Shawcross and Felipe Valencia.MORE NEWS: Pembroke Pines PD: 15-Year-Old Bicyclist Killed After Being Dragged Under Minivan For 30 Feet
In 2020, Inter Miami became just the seventh MLS franchise to make the MLS Cup Playoffs in its expansion season.