For the second game in a row, Inter Miami got a late-game spark from a hypermotivated substitute and it resulted in a 1-1 tie that felt like a win on the road against FC Dallas.
On Monday night, it was Leo Campana with the heroics in the final minutes. Inter Miami’s leading scorer and one of the most exciting forwards in MLS this season, Campana was as surprised as most fans when he found out he was not starting.
So, when he finally came off the bench in the 61st minute, he was determined to prove he belonged on the field. He scored the 89th-minute equalizer on a header after receiving an assist from Robert Taylor, who eluded two Dallas defenders on the right side before finding Campana.
It was Campana’s eighth MLS goal of the season, and ninth counting U.S. Open Cup. And it was Miami’s first goal away from home since mid-April. The sellout crowd of 19,096 at Toyota Stadium was hoping for a Dallas victory to be followed by the club’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show. They got one of the two.
The tie was a satisfying result for Inter Miami coach Phil Neville and his players, who had been shut out in their previous four road games and were 1-1-5 away from home before Monday. Miami moved up to ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings, two spots and three points from the playoff line with 17 games remaining.
Neville decided to start Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain, the league’s third-highest paid player at $5 million, who had been relegated to the bench in favor of Campana the past few months. Higuain was rewarded for training “like an absolute beast” last week, Neville said.
Higuain made a few nice passes but had little effect on the game. His best play came on a free kick early in the second half. He was fouled, jumped up, and in a veteran move, took the kick very quickly to catch FC Dallas’ defense off guard. It nearly worked, but wide open Emerson Rodriguez didn’t get enough power on the shot.
The offense, which had been sputtering, picked up energy and creativity after Campana and Duke came in. It showed on the stat sheet. In the first half, Inter Miami had four shots and just one on goal. In the second half, Miami had 11 shots and five on goal.
“We had two really unhappy players before the game in Bryce Duke and Leo Campana, they really wanted to play, and didn’t understand why they weren’t playing,” Neville said. “What I told them is we have six games in the next three weeks, Gonzalo has trained like an absolute animal all week and deserved to play.”
“I felt all week his rhythm and sharpness were coming back,” Neville said, adding that Higuain scored a goal in a scrimmage on Wednesday and recorded his biggest physical output since he came to Inter Miami in 2020.
“It was like, `Wow, this guy really wants it,’ and you have to reward your squad, it’s a squad game,” Neville said. “I knew 60, 65 minutes we’d bring Bryce and Leo on, it was a hot night and Gonzalo’s first game (back in a while). With Leo, he’s going to be a star, we know that, but he can’t play every single minute of every single game for 38 games plus the Cup game.”
Campana admitted he was unhappy to be left out of the Starting XI and used that as fuel when he went in.
“As a player, everybody wants to be inside the pitch,” Campana said. “I feel that outside the pitch I cannot help my team, so that’s why I was a little frustrated. But he’s the coach and he knows what he’s doing. He has the confidence in me, so I just accepted it and when I came in the second half, I tried to help the team and thanks to Robert for the assist we got the important point.”
Before the game, Neville told his players the three keys to the game were concentration, discipline, and ruthlessness.
“I thought we did two of them really well, and the ruthlessness and chances we created we didn’t do as well,” he said. “But we gambled to win and I’m super proud of every one of the players.”
Neville singled out the play of Taylor, the versatile Finn, who has played every position but goalkeeper and center back since joining the team this season.
“His pass on the goal was sensational,” Neville said. “I feel as if I am really taking advantage Robert Taylor because he plays three different positions in every game. He’s got such adaptability and he’s got the football intelligence to do any job we ask him to do.”
Inter Miami played without midfielder Gregore, who was suspended for yellow card accumulation.
Dallas struck first with a 27th minute free kick by Alan Velasco. Miami committed a foul on top of the 18-yard box, and Velasco curled the kick around the right side of the wall past the outstretched Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender into the far post.
Miami is back on the road Saturday night against Orlando City.