Leo Campana earns MLS Player of the Matchday honors after brace in win at Columbus
By Ken Garner
Leonardo Campana on Saturday delivered what Inter Miami fans had not seen this season: a dominant performance by a striker. His two first-half goals in a 2-1 win at Columbus -- his first goals of the season -- helped him earn MLS Player of the Matchday honors for Matrchday 10.
The Ecuadorian missed the first six games of the season and failed to score in his first two matches of the season, but he looked dominant in helping La Rosanegra end a six-game MLS losing streak (the Herons advanced in the U.S. Open Cup by winning a penalty shootout against USL Championship side and South Florida rival Miami FC on Wednesday after playing to a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes.)
Inter Miami coach Phil Neville -- who, along with left back Franco Negri joined Campana on the Team of the Matchday -- was thrilled to see Campana play like the breakout talent he was in 2022.
“He was sensational,” Neville said. “He held up the play. His first goal was really good. His second was typical Leo, getting across the near post. His heading ability is great. He’s only going to get better. If we have Leo Campana fit for the whole season, we’re going to be successful.”
Miami hadn't scored against MLS competition away from DRV PNK Stadium this season. Campana's two goals tied him with youngster Shanyder Borgelin for the team lead.
Campana scored 11 goals in his first season at Inter Miami last year after replacing veteran Gonzalo Higuain in the starting lineup, helping turn the Herons' fortunes. Higuain's benching undoubtedly played a role in his mid-season return to form, when he and midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo sparked a late run to carry the Pink into the playoffs.
With Higuain retired and Pozuelo playing for Konyaspor in Turkey, Inter Miami supporters are anxious to see Campana stay healthy and assert himself in the attack. The Herons acquired former MLS Most Valuable Player Josef Martinez in the offseason, but Neville seems to have shelved plans to pair Martinez and Campana in a two-striker attack. Campana's injury and Martinez' ineffectiveness have postponed if not permanently derailed that experiment, but Campana showed Saturday he's fine as a single No. 9.