This was a Halloween horror show by David Beckham.
Sitting in the stands here at Drv Pnk Stadium, the former England captain must have been writhing as the New York City Premier League side gave Phil Neville’s men their 17th defeat in a disappointing season, winning 3-1.
Finally a nail in the coffin of their play-off hopes – they needed a miracle and other teams to serve them even before this final at home – but now the hard work begins again.
Beckham is frustrated to see his inconsistent struggle in the franchise – two long, no-win streaks that term has been so costly – but is backing his former Manchester United teammate Neve to turn things around next season.
It won’t be easy with MLS chiefs stripping Inter Miami of transfer money after a series of financial irregularities following the French World Cup signing Blaise Matuidi last August.
But Neville can’t wait to crack.
He said: “I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect this to end higher. So I’m disappointed with that and I take responsibility for that. But I honestly can’t wait to attack next season as quickly as possible.
“We have great plans and this football club will continue to grow.
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“I spoke with the owners this week regarding their expectations and ambitions, and it hasn’t changed since day one. They want to win. They want us to be successful. They want to compete, and that’s where we really agree.”
The NYCFC, led by former Celtic boss Ronnie Della, was ahead at 33 minutes thanks to Jamal Valentin Castellanos who took advantage of defensive slack before sprinting home from 18 yards.
Ex-Chelsea killer Gonzalo Higuain, whose older brother Federico was playing in his last game before retiring, came closest to Neville’s side in the first half before Nicolas Vigal equalized in the 56th minute.
But Matuidi was woefully bypassed in midfield shortly after allowing Castellanos to grab his second goal at the end of a free-movement from Della’s men before Talis Magno hit a shot with seven minutes remaining.
Neville will be looking for high-income Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro and Matuidi, but he knows it won’t be easy.
Higuain is considering pursuing his brother into retirement while Matuidi’s performances throughout the season could force him to hang up his boots as well.
Pizarro has attracted interest from his country in Mexico and will need a move to boost his World Cup hopes but his resale value will be low after two difficult seasons in MLS.
“We have the best fans and we didn’t deserve their applause in the end,” Neville added.
“We wanted to help create a memory for Federico and set the tone for our expectations going forward.
“Nothing surprised me or proved anything different from what I already know about this team.
“There is a big task ahead of us. We owe it to our fans to give them a good farewell but we have lost focus and discipline.
“The fans of the other clubs would not have finally come around to support us after what happened there but their support has not wavered.
“In this league you are penalized for the lowest concentration and you need all the players to go in the right direction. You need team spirit but it will take time.
“We have to create a list of players who care about the team more than they care about themselves.”
In their last game of the season, Miami will travel to Eastern Conference leaders New England on Sunday.
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