Rodolfo Pizarro is returning to the Inter Miami training ground on Tuesday after playing for the Mexican national team in the thrilling Gold Cup final Sunday night, which the United States won 1-0 in extra time in Las Vegas.
Pizarro should be coming back energized, as he provided the game-winning assist for Mexico in the semifinal and played 35 minutes in the final, both in front of sold-out stadiums. He will be available for the Inter Miami road game at Orlando City on Wednesday.
He was not around for the past two Miami games — a 1-1 tie against the Philadelphia Union and a 2-1 victory over CF Montreal, the first home win of the season for last-place Miami.
Federico Higuain stepped in as playmaker and managed the middle of the field with his vision and calm demeanor. Inter Miami seems to have turned a corner but faces a tough stretch with games against three of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference — Orlando City, Nashville SC and New York City FC.
Asked if he plans to make lineup changes, Neville said: “What we saw the last two games is consistency and team selection has really helped with people knowing their jobs, but it is a three-game week. There were some really tired legs and we’ve got to make sure we put the freshest team out there and take the game to Orlando.”
Neville said he will wait until the last minute to name his starters.
Federico Higuain, 36, brings experience and stability to the lineup. Pizarro, 27, brings the promise of sizzle and will be looking to get back onto the field for his club team.
“They’re totally different players at different stages of their careers,” Neville said of Pizarro and Higuain. “Rodolfo is a runner with the ball, a connector, where I’d say Federico is the type of player that when there is absolute pandemonium, nervousness and tension, he always looks like he’s so smooth and calm. He’s got something in him that helps everyone around him play better and we need to utilize those qualities at times, like we have done.”
Neville said Federico Higuain has earned more playing time this season than the coach thought he would.
“Fede knows his worth to this team, but Rodolfo also gives us something really good and I was really pleased he made an impact with the Mexican team.”
One player who will start, Neville said, is midfielder Victor Ulloa, an MLS veteran who does everything coaches ask of him and is a quiet leader. Midfielder Blaise Matuidi, meanwhile, was benched for the Philadelphia game and came on as a substitute against Montreal. It remains to be seen what role the French World Cup winner will play against Orlando.
“Blaise came on and really helped us win the [Montrea] game and his attitude in training has been like a World Cup winner,” Neville said. “Victor starts against Orlando. I think he deserves the right for me to say that now. He’s someone that has earned the right to start. If you look at Victor versus Orlando in the first game, whoever plays next to Victor plays better and that is the biggest compliment. He plugs holes and gaps. He’s just a fantastic professional.”
Neville said Ulloa has improved his passing range and coaches have encouraged him to be “braver” in terms of his passing, to pass diagonal and forward rather than going for the safer options.
Center back Ryan Shawcross has been bothered by back spasms, which kept him out of the Montreal game. Neville said he is “hopeful” Shawcross will be ready to play in Orlando.
The other starting center back, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, is suspended for the game for yellow card accumulation. Options to replace him include Christian Makoun, newly-signed Ventura Alvarado, and Kelvin Leerdam, who could shift from right back.
Note: The MLS summer transfer window closes Aug. 5, so if Miami wants to make any immediate roster changes, it would have to be by then.