Neville disappointed as Inter Miami misses MLS playoffs

·3-min read
Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville is already anxious for next season after a loss Saturday eliminated any chance at the team reaching this season's MLS playoffs (AFP/Cliff Hawkins)

Phil Neville wasted no time in focusing his efforts on next season after Inter Miami's lingering Major League Soccer playoff hopes were extinguished 3-1 by New York City on Saturday.

The former England women's manager needed his MLS side to win the final two games to stand any chance of extending a difficult second campaign for David Beckham's American franchise.

But NYCFC, who sit fourth in the Eastern Conference after the triumph, deservedly left South Florida with all three points thanks to a goal in each half from Argentine forward Valentin Castellanos and a late effort from Talles Magno after Nicolas Figal drew the home side level on 56 minutes.

Inter Miami's 17th defeat of the season, means the club has no chance of finishing in the top seven of the Eastern Conference and showed the watching Beckham just how much work former Manchester United teammate Neville has on his hand in the off-season, especially with transfer sanctions in place following an MLS probe into the signing of French World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi last August from Juventus.

"I'd be lying if I said that I didn't expect this to finish higher," Neville, who has the full backing of Beckham and the ownership group, told AFP.

"So I'm disappointed at that and take responsibility for that. But I honestly can't wait to attack next season as quickly as possible.

"We've got great plans and this football club will continue to grow. This season, we've put some of the bricks in at the bottom in terms of the foundation that will help us be successful in the years to come. And that was really important. It was never going to be an overnight turnaround."

But it's clear Beckham and his fellow owners want a reversal of fortunes and quickly.

"This off-season will be massive for us and we've got a really big job to get a roster next year that will mean that we can compete," Neville said.

"I spoke with the owners this week in terms of their expectations and their ambitions and it hasn't changed from day one. They want to win. They want us to be successful. They want to compete, and that's where we are really aligned.

"There's going to be a lot of work done in terms of getting the right people into this football club to help us compete and help us to be successful."

- 'A big task ahead' -

NYCFC, managed by former Celtic chief Ronny Deila, were ahead on 33 minutes thanks to a beauty from Castellanos, who capitalized on defensive sloppiness before curling home from 18 yards.

Ex-Chelsea forward Gonzalo Higuain, whose elder brother Federico was playing in his last game before retiring, came closest for Neville's team in the first half before Figal equalized 11 minutes after the re-start.

But Matuidi was woefully by-passed in midfield soon after allowing Castellanos to bag his second at the end of a free-flowing move from Deila's side before Magno struck with seven minutes remaining.

"There's a big task ahead of us," said Neville. "We owed our supporters to give them a good send off but we lost concentration and discipline.

"Some fans of other clubs wouldn't have hung around at the end but their support has been unwavering. We have to create a roster with players who are more interested in the team than themselves."

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