Inter Miami’s season comes to an end after elimination from the MLS Cup Playoffs

Inter Miami team huddle prior to kickoff against New York City FC in the MLS Cup Playoffs. (Photo provided by Inter Miami)

The most successful season in Inter Miami’s short history came to an end on the road last night following a 3-0 loss to defending MLS Cup champion New York City FC. Gabriel Pereira and Maxi Moralez scored NYCFC’s first two goals six minutes apart during the second half before Heber added a third in stoppage time to seal a dominant performance. Miami, which was making its first playoff appearance in club history, heads home after the first round while NYC moves on to face the No. 2 seed Montreal in the second round on Sunday. 

This loss also marked the end of Argentne striker Gonzalo Higuain’s storied career. He had announced his retirement following the end of the season a few weeks ago. 

“I’m leaving with a clean conscience and super proud that I gave it everything up to today,” Higuain said during his final postgame press conference. “Now I start a new era, a new life, leaving behind what I loved most but with conviction that I gave it everything I had.”

A legendary career that saw “El Pipita” score 366 goals over 785 games while playing some of the world’s elite clubs including Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus came to a bittersweet end after the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

“I’m proud to have managed him. As a club we’re proud to have had him as [one of our] first ever [designated players],” Coach Phil Neville said. “He leaves in a good moment. He can now enjoy his retirement.”

The sixth-seeded Miami team kicked off the decisive game against New York with an aggressive high press and came out with energy. But NYC responded well, resulting in a fast-paced first 15 minutes. 

After that, though, New York dominated the match. 

Higuain thought he had a storybook ending with a goal in the 23rd minute that seemingly gave Miami the lead, but it was overturned because the striker was offside. The disallowed goal came against the run of the play, though. Chances were coming in bunches for New York. Five minutes later, a desperate Miami defense had to clear an NYC shot off the goal line that ended up hitting the post twice. 

Miami’s luck wouldn’t last. Pereira fired a shot into the top corner to give New York the lead in the 63rd minute and six minutes later Moralez added the second following an impressive build-up play from the home team. Inter was never able to establish itself in the game after the two goals. 

New York outshot Miami 27 to 12 in their 3-0 win.

The offseason is upon Inter Miami now, but this was a landmark season in the club’s history. The Herons set team records in 2022 with 14 wins in 34 games and 48 points. The club also placed higher in the standings than ever before with the sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Coach Neville sees success differently, though. 

“We want better, we want to win,” Neville said. “Finishing in sixth isn’t success in my eyes.”

Neville and the team had a better season than ever before, but the coach stressed the club has greater ambition.

“We’ve got to a home playoff, we’ve got to challenge for the supporters shield and we’ve got to win trophies,” Neville said. “This is a baby step forward. We’ve changed the way people look at Inter Miami.”

That they did. Neville took a team with 19 new players into the playoffs and sent a message to the rest of the league about both players and ownership group. 

Now the focus shifts to improving in the offseason and being ready next February to build off the success of this year.

For everyone but Higuain, that is. 

“I’m proud of the career I’ve had, but I hope they remember me as a person,” Higuain said, “I want to be remembered as someone that left values more important than my football career.”

That closes a great season for Inter Miami and opens a happy retirement for Higuain. 

Alfredo Banegas is a junior at Florida International University majoring in digital journalism hoping to combine his passion of sports and writing to become a sports writer. Alfredo looks to make positive changes in the way sports are covered in today’s media landscape.