On Wednesday, Miami suffered their fourth straight defeat with a 1-0 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls which left them rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and in 27th place out of the 29 team league.
It was a loss too far for the team’s fans who turned on head coach Phil Neville, unveiling a ‘Neville Out’ banner and then booing his 20-year-old son Harvey after he came on as a substitute.
Now, Neville faces a home game against a familiar face — his former Manchester United and England team-mate Wayne Rooney‘s D.C. United — and is in desperate need of a win.
Neville said he took responsibility for the team’s form but was understandably upset at the targeting of his son, who has come into the first team squad after being part of Miami’s youth system.
“The responsibility starts with and ends with me,” he said.
“If you’re unhappy, hit the manager. Don’t go for one of my young kids. That hurts and that’s personal,” said Neville.
“Hit me guys, I can handle that. I can take that. I’ve had it all my career.
“We have the best fans. I understand their frustration, the banners and all that because it comes with the territory being a professional football manager.
“I would say to the supporters, ‘Just come for me.’ Support the team and the young boys…Don’t knock one of our own. Just come for me,” he said.
Neville said his son was in the squad on merit and defender DeAndre Yedlin, the former Newcastle United full-back, offered support.
“We understand the fans’ frustration, we’re frustrated, as well and have not been nearly good enough,” Yedlin told the Miami Herald.
“As far as booing Harvey, he’s one of us. If you’re going to boo Harvey, then boo all of us. He’s done the steps he needed to do to get playing time and get on the field.
“He works hard every day in training like everyone else. He’s not here just because his father’s the coach. He’s a great young player. I don’t think it’s right to go after one player, especially a young player,” he said.
Miami have long been linked with Messi and the club have done little to dampen the speculation of a move for the 35-year-old Argentine whose contract with Paris St Germain ends this month.
It would require an unprecedented investment to lure the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to MLS but the club hope the chance to end his career in the United States in a heavily Spanish speaking community proves tempting.
Inter Miami’s problems are in stark contrast to other sports franchises in South Florida where the Miami Heat have reached the NBA Finals and the Florida Panthers are competing in the NHL’s Stanley Cup final.
Neville referenced the Heat’s ability to dig deep and find a way to win in crucial moments and he will need to see that from his players against Rooney’s side.
After finishing bottom of the East last season, D.C. United have had a solid start to the campaign and are inside the playoff qualification slots in eighth place.
Saturday also sees a derby in the Pacific Northwest between Western Conference leaders Seattle and the Portland Timbers with the Sounders looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s loss to San Jose.
FC Cincinnati, who lead the East by eight points, host the Chicago Fire.