The matchup was rich and culture alive for a historic day at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale as the LA Galaxy defeated Inter Miami CF 3-2.
With flags flying, Tom Brady in the stands, and Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” blasting over the loud speakers, MLS returned after the longest postseason in history.
The 8,000-person crowd was crazed and consistent — occupying the Fort Lauderdale stadium for the first time since COVID. Commissioner Don Garber joined ESPN’s broadcast at halftime, praising the fans saying, “Soccer without fans is like a sport without soul. And now the soul is returning to Major League Soccer.”
Inter Miami owner David Beckham battled against his former team while newly appointed Phil Neville premiered in his coaching debut of a senior club game.
Neville dubbed Sunday the “biggest day of [his] career.” After the game, Neville said, “It was everything more than I wanted or expected. And I’ve got to say I loved every single minute of it, apart from the results.”
Miami was excellent in the first half playing one step ahead of LA while staying productive in play despite LA possessing the ball 69 percent of the time.
Forty-six minutes in, Gonzalo Higuaín assisted Robbie Robinson for his first senior goal of his career.
In his post-game press conference, Higuaín said the choice to pass was done so in his team mindset, saying, “The group always goes above the individuals. He was [in a] better position than myself.”
After halftime, Miami’s momentum fell as the heat and fatigue grew. “Chicharito” Javier Hernández — a former product of Neville who has not scored double digits in over 4 seasons — started his season strong by scoring two goals for the Galaxy.
Higuaín put Miami back in front on a Penalty Kick as smoke bombs exploded in the stands in celebration. Higuaín played more conservative than usual, and in the first 19 minutes, only touched the ball twice.
Galaxy players moved on quickly after Higuaín tied the game, motivating each other into the final minutes.
Sacha Kljestan scored the final goal, pushing past Miami to win.
For Miami, with Higuaín and Robinson playing as a dynamic duo, Neville sees success throughout the season.
Neville has been working closely with Robinson and says he has “big potential.”
Despite the loss, Neville held his head high and said, “It is going to be a long road… Today was a bump, but I think we showed some good signs today that we can have success.”
Miami travels to play Philadelphia Union on Saturday at 8 p.m.
With Sunday’s win, the LA Galaxy broke its 5-game losing streak on the road and will play at home on Sunday against the NY Red Bulls.