The former England women’s head coach made his debut in charge of Inter Miami on Sunday. But a familiar name came back to haunt him Phil Neville’s Inter Miami lost a close match to LA Galaxy on Sunday. Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images For new Inter Miami coach Phil Neville, the holidays are over. The former England women’s coach, who midweek spoke fondly of annual family vacations on South Beach during his playing days, tasted defeat in his first game in MLS, as LA Galaxy came from behind twice to earn a late 3-2 win at DRV PNK Stadium. With all the pre-match talk of the Manchester United reunion between Neville and team owner David Beckham, it was another Old Trafford old boy, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández, who spoiled the party with a pair of typically predatory finishes. The visitors sealed the points thanks to substitute Sacha Kljestan’s calm finish with nine minutes left. Having led twice, through Robbie Robinson’s goal on the stroke of half time and Gonzalo Higuaín’s 68th minute spot-kick, Neville was left to rue a missed opportunity to make an immediate impression on his MLS debut. On the balance of chances, his team probably should have. “I thought we were the team that created the most chances, opportunities and shots and I definitely didn’t think we deserved to lose,” he said after the game. Indeed, Miami looked good value for a half-time lead, despite the visitors – themselves helmed by a new coach in Greg Vanney – bossing possession. Neville’s side were well-organised, pressed intelligently in the oppressive south Florida heat, and made key interceptions in good areas to exploit the space in front of the Galaxy back line. Higuaín could have done better with numerous opportunities before unselfishly laying on the opener for Robinson in first-half stoppage time. The goal sent the reduced, but boisterous crowd of 7,939, into raptures – with pyro and pink flares ablaze. They had waited a long time for a home opener in front of fans. Years, in fact. “If you take the result aside, the occasion was everything and probably more,” Neville said. “You get these occasions in your career, and I’ve had plenty of them, but our supporters were amazing. When we’ve been without supporters for so long you forget how important these people are, not just to us, but to the whole of football.” For much of the afternoon, Neville cut a relaxed figure in the technical area and gleefully celebrated his team’s goals. Miami’s home opener – essentially delayed for 13 months – seemed to be following the script, until it didn’t. This fixture, carefully plotted to involve Beckham’s old club, was postponed last March just three days prior to kick-off, as the pandemic brought world sport to a standstill. Today, Inter Miami dusted off the cobwebs and gave out the commemorative flags for ‘the game that never was’, baring the date 14 March 2020. Beckham, an almost daily presence at the team’s training facility, was finally able to salute those in attendance before the nationally televised match, stopping also to embrace Galaxy staff. It was Beckham’s ground-breaking contract in LA that entitled him to purchase the Miami franchise at a cut-price $20m in the first place. For reference, Charlotte paid a reported $325m for its expansion team, expected to debut next season. After Sunday’s loss, there is still plenty of work to be done by Neville to prove his managerial mettle. His tenure with the England women’s team – not universally acclaimed to begin with – fizzled out. The fourth place World Cup 2019 finish, although enjoyable, was little more than a par round for a team seeded fourth. He must also overcome a ‘jobs for the boys’ implication that comes with the territory of being appointed in Miami by his long-time friend Beckham. For more than an hour of this game there was plenty of evidence Miami will be a force in the Eastern Conference. They looked good in possession and, in the skillful and intelligent Mexico playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro, have an attacking anchor to build around. Robinson, a refreshingly direct forward Neville expects to “go from strength to strength”, complemented Higuaín exceptionally well before all three waned. Recent signing Ryan Shawcross, an unused substitute on Sunday, could shore-up the back line. The team still faces challenges in the weeks to come, beyond putting points on the board. MLS commissioner Don Garber, in attendance on Sunday, confirmed the club will be sanctioned after France midfielder Blaise Matuidi’s signing broke league budgeting rules. Welcome to #DRVPNKStadium, @TomBrady!#InterMiamiCF | #MIAvLAG pic.twitter.com/HfO04BbDO8— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) April 18, 2021 For now, local enthusiasm for the team remains high. Limited tickets for Sunday’s game sold out and the club expects the full 18,000 capacity to be available at some point this season. There’s an exceptionally vocal hard-core base to build upon, who created a vibrant and colourful party atmosphere more will want to enjoy. However, the city’s recent sporting history suggests attendance will be largely results-dependent once the novelty of having a soccer team wears off. Tom Brady came down from Tampa to watch on Sunday, tomorrow is a different story. Besides, Inter Miami are playing their home games 30-odd miles away in Fort Lauderdale until their proposed new stadium is built in Freedom Park. That’s if it’s ever built. The hastily constructed DRV PNK stadium is an admirably fine stopgap, but also a far cry from the vision of a downtown 25,000-seater stadium on Miami’s glitzy waterfront Beckham proposed when announcing his plans in 2014. Having finally got a team on the field and fans in the seats, Beckham’s task is now to establish Miami among the MLS elite and in the hearts of south Floridians. His old mate Phil bears much of that responsibility.