FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Rodolfo Pizarro has looked as happy and sharp as Phil Neville has seen him, but whether the midfielder will have the opportunity to translate that onto the field for Inter Miami on Wednesday is unknown.
Inter Miami is a day out from welcoming Eastern Conference leaders the New England Revolution to Drv Pnk Stadium for a David vs. Goliath-type showdown, but the last-placed South Florida side is a bit unclear with regards to Pizarro’s availability.
The attacking midfielder was called up on Monday as an emergency injury replacement for Mexico’s Concacaf Gold Cup push, and it is up in the air right now whether he will travel to join his national team before Wednesday’s MLS game or after. Mexico’s quarterfinals match vs. an opponent that is to be determined is on Saturday.
“I think it is 50-50 whether he is here for the game tomorrow,” said Inter Miami head coach Neville. “Rodolfo himself does not exactly know yet, which I suppose I am really disappointed (about) because he is in a brilliant, brilliant shape. The best shape he has been (at) since I came to the club, both mentally and physically.
“He is ready to play, ready to play well, ready to score. I am convinced of that.”
Pizarro trained with Inter Miami on Tuesday morning, and Neville said afterwards that a decision on the 27-year-old star’s availability could come as early as Tuesday night. Neville added that he is holding out hope that Pizarro can stick around for the midweek MLS tussle, though the Englishman added he is “not confident at all” about that happening.
Nonetheless, Neville is eager to see Pizarro play again for the Herons. Not only because the player has performed better in practice as of late, but also because his teammates have also taken more to him over the last couple of weeks.
“He has integrated himself more into the group, he is playing with a smile on his face, he is physically in better shape, he has lost weight, he is lean,” said Neville. “He now looks like a real, real top player that we signed and … he is a player that needs confidence, he is a player that needs everybody around him to have confidence. When you’re a No. 10, you need the whole group to feel the same way for you, with you, and when you go on that pitch.
“I think what he has found over the last two weeks is the group has united around him as well, that has given him probably the platform and love that he probably deserves. … Sometimes as a player you need to feel that from your teammates as well and I think that is what he has probably felt from his teammates more than ever over the last two weeks. He has put the work in and the group has come closer together in terms of their support for him.”
If Pizarro is not in uniform on Wednesday, Neville is likely to turn to one of Federico Higuain or Jay Chapman. Both Higuain and Chapman have gotten starts this season at the No. 10 role for Inter Miami.
Pizarro is the preferred option right now, though. It is just a matter of whether he will be around to play or not.
“He, I think, over the last two weeks has been our best player in training by a long way and, probably for the first time since I came here, I see a happiness and a smile and a sparkle in his eyes,” said Neville. “Mexico will get the benefit from that I am sure, but seeing him smile has definitely, definitely made me happy, seeing his performances and attitude has been great.”