In a perfect made-for-T.V. script, in the City of Brotherly Love, Gonzalo and Federico Higuain made history Saturday night, becoming the first MLS brothers to score in the same game.
They each notched a goal in Inter Miami’s come-from-behind 2-1 road win against the Philadelphia Union.
The Higuain heroics were even sweeter because last season at Subaru Park, in Gonzalo Higuain’s MLS debut, Miami lost 3-0 and Higuain was mocked by Union players who celebrated in his face when he missed a penalty kick.
This time, it was the Higuains – and their Miami teammates — who did all the celebrating.
Trailing 1-0 in the 62nd minute, Inter Miami coach Phil Neville took out playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro and replaced him with Fede Higuain, Gonzalo’s 36-year-old less-heralded brother. From the moment he entered the game, Inter Miami’s attack got an injection of energy, and the elder Higuain was able to deliver the ball in tight spaces.
In the 73rd minute, Fede Higuain sent a diagonal free kick into the box, directly to the head of his younger brother, almost as if they had telepathy. Gonzalo knocked it into the net past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake for the equalizer and was immediately tackled by his overjoyed teammates.
It was Gonzalo Higuian’s first goal from the field of play since joining MLS last September, and his second goal in two games – surpassing his season total in nine games last year.
The Higuain brothers embraced. And there was another family hug to come.
Ten minutes after Gonzalo’s goal, Fede Higuain headed in the game-winner off a spectacular effort and assist by fellow Argentine Nico Figal, who had raced up the field from the right back position and juked a defender to deliver the perfect cross.
Fede Higuain said he was thinking about his parents back in Argentina after the game, especially his mother, who has been seriously ill. “This was for them,” he said.
“Federico deserves to be talked about in his own right,” said Inter Miami coach Phil Neville, who won his first game as an MLS coach. “He brings a calmness to training, a calmness to the dressing room, a calmness to Gonzalo and to the whole team. When he comes on when everyone else is running around 100 miles an hour, he seems to flow into the game and gives the team confidence and composure.”
Neville pointed out that he brought Fede Higuain off the bench in the season-opening game against the Los Angeles Galaxy and he almost scored. “He had a brilliant impact on that game,” Neville said, “And, he was incredible” in a Monday scrimmage against Miami FC.
“His attitude to work every single day, we can’t get him off the training ground and he’s been really good. What he brought us is quality, delivery for the first goal. He brings quality and I’m really, really delighted.”
Asked if it made his happier to score the game-winner or set up his brother’s goal, Fede said: “As a No. 10 I always like to provide my forwards and wingers. In this case, Gonzalo’s goal was very important for us because it gave us a lot of confidence to keep battling and pushing.”
The elder brother said “It’s great not only because he’s my brother. When I speak about Gonzalo, I speak about the football player. One we are in the facility he is not any more my brother, he is my teammate. It’s a pleasure to play next to him, next to Blaise Matuidi, next to many guys on this roster.”
Neville felt the key to beating the Union was earlier substitutions than in the first game, and “defending for our lives.” The Union had nine corner kicks to one for Miami, and they have very tall center backs. He singled out Figal and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who wore the captain’s armband, and was pleased with the improved play of Joevin Jones and Kelvin Leerdam.
“We beat a really top team, a team that’s in (CONCACAF) Champions League, a team that’s going to be going for the championship this year, so what we said in the dressing room after the game was `This is just the start of the journey for us,’’’ Neville said.
“We know we’ve got miles more to give, miles more quality, miles more consistency. I’m not getting carried away at all. The road is long and there will be many ups and downs.”
Neville could relate to the Higuains’ emotions on Saturday day, as he played with his brother Gary.
“Speaking from real experience having played with my brother for a long time, there is a special bond when they’re on the same team,” Neville said. “There’s an understanding because I had the same feeling with my brother. It’s a special feeling for them both. It’s a great moment for their family.”
For the second game in a row, Inter Miami’s Robbie Robinson looked confident and dangerous on the left wing. He had Miami’s best scoring chance in the first half, intercepting a pass in the box, cutting inside his defender and launching a powerful shot that banged off the crossbar in the 19th minute.
Robinson was involved in several attacks but tweaked his hamstring on the final play of the first half and was replaced in the second half by Jay Chapman, playing his first minutes of the season. “We took Robbie out as a precaution,” Neville said. “He had some tightness in his hamstring and he’s a player who relies so much on speed and power. I hope it’s not too bad.”
The game remained scoreless at halftime.
Philadelphia took the lead on a 54th minute goal by Jamiro Monteiro, who took advantage when Miami defenders failed to clear a ball in the penalty area.
Neville went with the same Starting XI as the first game: John McCarthy; Leerdam, Figal, Gonzalez Pirez, Jones; Gregore, Blaise Matuidi; Lewis Morgan, Pizarro, Robinson; Gonzalo Higuain.
Inter Miami is back on the road Sun. May 2 for a 1 p.m. game against Nashville SC, a rematch of the 2020 opening-round playoff game, which Nashville won 3-0.