Inter Miami could have a "really, really special" player on their hands in the form of Robbie Robinson, so says Phil Neville.
Robinson, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, had a difficult first season with Miami, but impressed in their defeat to LA Galaxy last week, scoring his first league goal.
Neville's men face Philadelphia Union in their second match, and the new Miami boss was full of praise for 22-year-old Robinson.
"We've been working so hard with Robbie. The boy's got big potential," Neville said. "The boy's getting confident, the boy's got the belief of me, the trust of me, the trust and love from his teammates and I think that's really important.
"He knows the journey that he's on, he knows what he's got to do and he knows where he wants to go. And I think he knows this is just the start of something that could be really, really special for him if he really, really wanted it as hard as what we want it for him."
While Neville was hailing one youngster, Union coach Jim Curtin lamented the lack of experience he currently has available in reserve.
Philadelphia started their season with a 0-0 draw away at MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew, though Curtin made just one substitute, and is concerned by a lack of depth in an injury hit squad.
"Our bench right now is very defensive, and it's very thin," he said. "It's no secret that we miss Ilsinho and Cory [Burke].
"We're going to give these guys opportunities, but it has to be an opportunity that number one, they earned, and number two, that makes sense. To throw a kid into that game can also be counter-productive to their development. You want to set them up for success."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Philadelphia Union – Jamiro Monteiro
One of the Union's main players who has stayed fit is Jamiro Monteiro. The midfielder scored four MLS goals last term, and will be key to Philadelphia's attempt to get results while they struggle with their current injuries.
Inter Miami – Robbie Robinson
Only Gonzalo Higuain (six) attempted more shots than Robinson (four) against the Galaxy, with the winger getting two of them on target and creating one chance. With the full backing of Neville, he will be looking to repay his coach's faith.
KEY OPTA FACTS
• The Union won their first two games against Inter Miami, winning 2-1 at MLS is Back and 3-0 in Chester in September. Kacper Przybylko (one goal, two assists) was directly involved in three of the five goals.
• Philadelphia were perfect at home during the 2020 regular season, winning all nine of their matches at Subaru Park, but lost 2-0 to New England in the playoffs. That loss also ended a 20-match scoring run for Philadelphia at home (regular season and playoffs) dating back to May 2019.
• Miami led 1-0 and 2-1 before going on to lose to the Galaxy in their season opener. Miami dropped 14 points from winning positions last season, tied with Orlando City for most in MLS.
• Including their playoff defeat to New England and their season opening draw at Columbus, the Union haven't scored in their last two matches. They haven't gone three straight matches without a goal since August-September 2013.
• Gonzalo Higuain scored from the penalty spot in Miami's season-opening loss to the Galaxy. Higuain had attempted 23 shots in the box in the 2020 season without scoring any of them, the most by any player without a goal in the box last season.