Inter Miami tight-lipped about future coach following Neville’s firing for poor results

Inter Miami has a team good enough to win these games.

That was one of the messages delivered by tight-lipped sporting director Chris Henderson on Friday afternoon following the firing of coach Phil Neville on Thursday. Neville was dismissed after two-and-a-half-seasons in charge, the most recent of which has Inter Miami in last place of the Eastern Conference with a 5-0-10 record.

“[It was] a really difficult decision,” Henderson said. “Inter Miami is an ambitious club, we have a competitive team, results have not been good enough, and we need to improve.”

Another aspect that seems to have played a part in Neville’s exit is fan sentiment toward the 46-year-old Englishman. Inter Miami supporters, particularly the more rabid and passionate ones that make up La Familia, had soured on Neville in recent weeks.

There had been mounting calls on social media for Neville to be fired as the losses piled up, and things got the ugliest they have been in this past Wednesday’s 1-0 home loss to the New York Red Bulls. The defeat that kept the South Florida side in 15th place in the East saw fans unfurl a tifo that read, “Neville Out,” in addition to booing Harvey Neville — Phil’s son — every time the right back touched the ball during a substitute cameo.

Sources tell the Miami Herald that team co-owner Jorge Mas met with a group of fans from Inter Miami’s supporters’ groups on Thursday to apologize for how poorly the season has gone to this point.

“Our connection between our staff, our players, and our fans is vitally important,” Henderson said. “We want to continue to build that connection and I think show that we are taking the right steps to improve.”

Interim head coach Javier Morales, an Inter Miami assistant who started as an academy coach with the organization back in 2019, echoed that statement.

“What we want to start to achieve is for people to come to the stadium and feel like they can identify with the team,” Morales said in Spanish. “Whether we get the desired result or not at the end of a game, we want people going home feeling happy about being an Inter Miami fan.

“That is what we are looking for: for the people to feel represented. I am not saying that has not been done in the past, but that is what I am looking for as a head coach.”

Morales, 43, repeatedly rejected chances to go into specifics about how he wants to have Inter Miami play under him starting with Saturday’s home game at DRV PNK Stadium against D.C. United. The Argentine was an attacking midfielder during his career, however, so it seems possible that Inter Miami becomes tactically more aggressive and offensive-minded than it had been recently under Neville.

“I surely have an idea about the team that will play [Saturday] and the manner in which I would like us to play,” Morales said. “I have talked to the players about that. There are one or two changes we could make, but the reality is that we are planning for tomorrow’s game with a lot of desire and surely things will play out well.”

Labeling this chance to lead Inter Miami the “opportunity of my life,” Morales will oversee Inter Miami for the next three games. Whether he sticks around longer than that is unknown, though Henderson did not want to divulge details as to what type of full-time manager the South Florida side is looking for.

Henderson even sidestepped a question as to whether Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, the high-profile Argentine coach who recently expressed interest in returning to MLS, was a candidate.

“I do not want to talk about specific coaches,” Henderson said. “There will be an interview process, but I am not going to get into specifics. That is internal within our club between myself and our ownership group, and we will continue that process together as a group.”

Regardless of the long-term approach and whether World Cup winner Lionel Messi is a part of it, Inter Miami’s short-term focus is on snapping the current four-game losing streak in league play. Saturday vs. D.C. United will be the first test of this post-Neville era, and the Herons are hoping to start it with three points.

“We have a competitive team,” Henderson said. “We have a team good enough to be winning these games.”