Phil Neville wanted to be careful with his words about it. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez did not even want to speak on it.
Ultimately, however, they both expressed their and Inter Miami’s displeasure with the refereeing.
Inter Miami suffered a frustrating and disappointing defeat in the team’s return from the international break, losing, 1-0, on the road to D.C. United on Saturday night. The game at Audi Field in Washington D.C. was scoreless in the second half, but three big calls from head official Fotis Bazakos went against the South Florida side during that stanza and played a part in D.C. United eventually finding the decisive goal.
First, holding midfielder Gregore was ejected in the 56th minute with a second yellow card for a foul on Kevin Paredes. A handball against left back Christian Makoun was whistled 16 minutes later, and finally centerback Ryan Shawcross was given a straight red card for a tackle in the 84th minute.
— D.C. United (@dcunited) June 20, 2021
“I do not think I have ever seen anything like what I saw on that football field tonight in terms of some of the decisions that I saw,” said Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville. “The two sendings off were not sendings off, the penalty was not a penalty, and I suppose this is not the first time (something like this has happened to us). It is not the first time.
“I try to be really positive about referees as a manager and I will support them,” added Neville. “They are only human beings, but some of the things that I am seeing are a major, major worry. They are a major, major, major worry for this league and unfortunately my players have suffered tonight. … They are really, really angry, frustrated, fuming about what they thought was a major injustice.”
Inter Miami captain and centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was equally as pointed with his criticism.
“The reality is we do not try to focus on the referees, but the referees always end up hurting us,” said Gonzalez Pirez in Spanish. “There has not been one game where the referee has favored us. I try not to talk about it, but it is something that is becoming evident, that is becoming repetitive, and that honestly is busting our (chops) a bit.”
— D.C. United (@dcunited) June 20, 2021
Inter Miami did more than just express its frustration with Saturday night’s refereeing. Both Neville and Gonzalez Pirez talked about previous instances in which the team felt hard done-by because of officiating, even pointing to other games like the 1-1 home draw with Atlanta United on May 9 and 0-0 stalemate with Nashville SC on a week prior.
“Tonight was probably like that moment that it is going to be like that for Inter Miami as a football club,” said Neville. “We have seen it in the things that has been dealt with to the club, the things that have happened on the pitch in terms of some of the decisions that have been made against us, regularly, every game, by every referee.”
Gonzalez Pirez added: “It is difficult to talk about because one could think we are making excuses or something of the like, but these are repeated occurrences. In the game against Atlanta there is a super clear handball on Miles Robinson on a Gonzalo Higuain shot in which it seemed the VAR computer or television broke and they could not rewatch it.”
While refereeing calls may not be going the team’s way, Inter Miami has plenty to address and improve. The South Florida side finished with just one shot on target for the third time this season, failed to score in a third straight game, and was out-possessed by a wide margin even before Gregore was questionably sent off. The Herons have also now lost their last three matches and four in their last five.
Clearly, there is much to work on for the struggling team.
“There are 25 games left, there is still a lot left,” said Gonzalez Pirez. “This is a league where you win two games in a row and you get into the playoffs. It is frustrating, but we do not need to lose our calm and do not need to get down on ourselves. It is a league that permits you to redeem yourself. We have to stay focused, we have to keep working to get better, and we have to stay positive.”