Gonzalo Higuain dreams of ending his career as a champion with Inter Miami CF after announcing his retirement plans ahead of Wednesday’s huge showdown with Orlando City SC.
Former Real Madrid, Juventus, Milan and Chelsea striker Higuain will bring down the curtain on his career at the end of the current MLS campaign.
Inter will hope that extends into the MLS Cup Playoffs, with Phil Neville’s side in possession of the final spot in the Eastern Conference with two matches to play.
And for Higuain, that will present a chance to add to the 14 trophies he has already lifted, including league titles in Spain, England and Italy.
“My biggest motivation is to help my team-mates,” said the ex-Argentina international, who turns 35 in December.
“Retiring as champions with them would be the greatest gift I could receive as a player, because they have also been there and have helped me, they have accompanied me.
“Players, physios, coaching staff, my brother, my family, for all of them I have one more thing to do, which is to become champion with this club and retire as I deserve.
“What could be more beautiful than sharing it with all of them?”
There is plenty on the line in the midweek Florida Derby as Inter are only above rivals Orlando by virtue of a better goal difference.
The hosts will clinch a post-season berth should they win, while Orlando can do so should they win and Columbus Crew lose at Charlotte FC the same day.
On the back of a disappointing 2-1 loss to New York City FC, Lions boss Oscar Pareja is hoping his side can quickly get that setback out of their system.
“We have been in this mode of ‘must win’ in the last two-and-a-half months, so it’s not strange for us to be in this mode of needing to win and get the points to qualify,” he said.
“We hope that these two days are enough to recover the group and face the next game in Miami, and we still have another one at home (against Columbus Crew).”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Inter Miami – Gonzalo Higuain
Higuain is certainly bowing out on a high if his recent form is anything to go by, having scored in four successive matches and netted five in total across that period. The Miami striker has hit the winning goal for his side in their past three victories to ensure they remain in a strong position to qualifying for the playoffs.
Orlando City – Facundo Torres
Torres’ goal against New York City FC was his 12th of the season across all competitions, adding to his 11 assists. With two normal-season fixtures remaining, the 22-year-old requires just one goal or assist to overtake former captain Nani’s single-season record (23) for Orlando set in 2019.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Inter Miami have won only two of their eight MLS meetings with Orlando City, with both wins coming at home during the 2020 season. The road team has recorded just one victory in the seven non-neutral site meetings between the sides, a 2-1 Orlando win in their last trip to DRV PNK Stadium in June 2021.
– Inter have won three consecutive matches following a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC last week. All three of those wins, and 12 of the Herons’ 13 wins this season, have come by a one-goal margin.
– Orlando have lost consecutive road matches for the first time this season following a 2-1 loss to New York City last time out. The Lions have just one three-match losing streak on the road since the start of the 2019 season, dropping three in a row in September 2021.
– Higuain scored the lone goal in Miami’s win over Toronto on Friday and has scored six times in his last six matches, including the past four in a row. It is the longest run of league games with a goal for Higuain since scoring in five straight for Juventus in Serie A in October-December 2017.
– Torres scored his eighth goal of the season in Orlando’s loss to NYCFC to go along with nine assists. The only three players to record more than 17 goal contributions in a single regular season for Orlando City are Nani (twice), Kaka and Kevin Molino.