Inter Miami forward Gonzalo Higuain was slapped with a post-game red card for arguing with a referee following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact, which means he will miss the upcoming home game against Orlando City.
It is a huge blow for Inter Miami during a critical race for the playoffs, and a disappointment for Higuain, who left Italian power Juventus and joined Miami last month to much fanfare and a league-high $7 million salary.
One of the most prolific scorers in Europe’s top leagues over the past decade, Higuain was the kind of striker Miami fans had been awaiting, a player who would provide goals for the team’s anemic offense.
Higuain has shown flashes of his quality on the field, scored a spectacular game-winning free kick golazo to beat the New York Red Bulls, and has become an instant leader, earning the captain’s armband in the absence of injured goalkeeper Luis Robles.
But his first six weeks with Miami have been bumpy. He has scored just one goal, none from the field of play. He missed a penalty kick in his debut and then endured verbal abuse from Philadelphia Union players. Now, the red card from referee Tim Ford “after the final whistle, but while still on the field of play, for using offensive/insulting/abusive language to the referee,” according to MLS and the Professional Referee Organization.
Higuain and three teammates — Blaise Matuidi, Nico Figal, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez — approached the referee after the game and were protesting what they felt were missed calls.
The card punctuated the end of a frustrating night for Higuain, who was not as involved in scoring chances as he should have been. Often double-teamed, he had just 34 touches on the ball, fewer than all the field starters from both teams and just four more than Miami goalkeeper John McCarthy.
Nico Figal led Miami with 91 touches, followed by Dylan Nealis (75), Lewis Morgan (74), and Blaise Matuidi (61). Higuain had three touches in the box. Morgan had six.
Things had gone better for Higuain in the three previous games, a pair of victories and a tie. He had 50 touches, five of them in the box, and eight shots in the 1-1 tie with Atlanta. In the 1-0 win over Houston, Higuain had 44 touches, six of them in the box, and five shots. And in the win over the New York Red Bulls, seven of his 40 touches were in the box.
His suspension comes at a bad time, as Inter Miami is desperate for points in the playoff race, and facing an Orlando City team that is riding a 12-game unbeaten streak and just clinched a playoff spot for the first time in their club history. Orlando is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with an 8-2-8 record.
With four games remaining in the regular season, Inter Miami is in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-11-3 record and 18 points. Atlanta United is in 11th place with 19 points, and Chicago Fire in 10th place with 20 points. The top 10 advance to the playoffs.
It will be the fourth meeting between Inter Miami and Orlando City. Orlando City won twice, both by 2-1 scores, and Miami won 3-2 on Aug. 22.
Inter Miami’s dynamic playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro is expected back in the lineup after missing four games while on duty with the Mexican national team. Defender Andres Reyes is also slated to return from an injury to his face.
The club is evaluating options as to whether they will be able to welcome any fans to the stadium for the remaining two home games. Saturday’s match is at 3:30 p.m. and will be shown on UniMas (Spanish) and TUDN USA on Twitter (English).
MLS Unveils Diversity, Social Justice Initiatives
MLS on Monday announced a series of programs to combat racism, advocate for social justice and increase diversity in the sport. They include a civic engagement initiative, youth and grassroots programs, and a diversity committee, which includes representatives of Black Players for Change.
“Major League Soccer is committed to utilizing our wide-ranging platforms to create meaningful programs to address racism and social injustice in society and in the sport of soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “Importantly, alongside key stakeholders, including MLS owners, Black Players For Change, former players, Black members of our technical staff and other employees, we have created a series of initiatives to close the representation gap across soccer in the U.S. and Canada.”
MLS owners also contributed $1 million to Black Players For Change to aid in the growth of the organization in the coming years.