Phil Neville has called for Inter Miami to hold their nerve as the Herons approach a crucial clash with fellow MLS Playoff hopefuls Columbus Crew.

Miami sit two points behind the Crew in the Eastern Conference after slipping to three consecutive defeats, but Neville is choosing to remain upbeat regarding their prospects.

“I always have a good feeling about this group because they are so together. I know how desperately they want to be successful, how they want to do well,” he said.

“You can look at the league table and you can either be fearful or enjoy it, and we’ve got to be able to enjoy this challenge. We’ve got a young team that has to learn very quickly, and we’ve got to be better very quickly.

“We’ve got to remain balanced. We’ve got to think about the next five games. We know there are loads of points to play for.

“It’s the team that keeps their nerve. It’s the hard parts that make it so exciting, so when you do succeed, it makes it special.”

Columbus have also endured some frustrating results at the worst possible time, and gave away a two-goal lead in the closing stages after going down to 10 men against CF Montreal last time out.

Luis Diaz’s late red card cost Caleb Porter’s side dearly in that game, and he is keen to ensure they learn their lessons.

“The biggest thing we’ve got to learn from is we can’t be losing our discipline and getting a red card when we’re 2-0 and our nose is in front, playing one of the best teams in the league,” Porter said.

“Three points in the bag. I know Luis is obviously disappointed and sorry for that, but that cost us. That really cost the team.

“When you lose your discipline and make mistakes like that, it hurts the team. Everybody needs to learn from that.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Inter Miami – Gonzalo Higuain

Higuain scored in yet another game Miami failed to win on Saturday, with the Herons winning just one of the eight games in which he’s found the net this year (D2 L5). Miami are averaging 0.63 points per match when Higuain scores this season, the lowest in MLS among players who have scored in at least five games this term – will his luck turn against the Crew?

Columbus Crew – Lucas Zelarayan

Zelarayan scored his ninth goal of 2022 on Friday, to go with his 10 assists. He is one goal away from becoming the third player in Crew history with 10 goals and 10 assists in a single regular season, after Jeff Cunningham in 2000 (10 goals, 13 assists) and Ethan Finlay in 2015 (12 goals, 13 assists).

KEY OPTA FACTS

– The home side has won all three meetings between Inter Miami and Columbus, with Miami winning the first-ever meeting between the sides 1-0 last September. The Crew then won the two subsequent meetings in Columbus by a combined score of 5-0.

– Inter Miami will return to home soil after three straight road losses. Since the beginning of May, only Atlanta United (5) have taken fewer road points than Miami (6 – W1 D3 L7).

– Meanwhile, only seven teams have claimed more points than Inter Miami at home in that same spell (20 – W6 D2 L1).

– The Crew’s 2-2 draw at Montreal on Friday extended their unbeaten away run to eight games, one shy of the club record of nine straight, set in 2004.

– However, Columbus have managed just three wins in those games (D5), despite leading at some point in six of the eight games.