MIAMI, Fla. (January 20, 2020) —
It’s been an historical week for fans of Inter Miami.
Flashback to a bright and sunny Wednesday morninig, the 5th day of February, 2014. David Beckham announced at a bay front news conference held at the Pérez Art Museum in downtown Miami that he was bringing Major League Soccer to Miami. Commissioner Don Garber was on hand, as was Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The first supporters club of this team, calling themselves the Southern Legion, or Legión del Sur, were present. The stated goal was to launch the club in time for the 2016 season, and perhaps 2017 at the latest.
It was a day that would change my life. A day that I set a goal, one which though as of yet has not been entirely realised, still seems achievable. I do not give up. David Beckham said that day, to do anything great there will always be challenges and “bumps along the way.”
Fast forward 1,811 days: This past Monday, January 20, 2020 — nearly twenty years since the Miami Fusion were extinguished by the league — 22 players wearing pink adidas training tops trotted onto the pitch at Barry University. It marked the very first training session in franchise history. Journalists and media were allowed access to this week’s training sessions. Monday’s preseason practice made it all very real at last.
Last Saturday, players and coaches gathered for the first time for dinner at Argentinian restaurant Graziano’s in Coral Gables. The nod to Latin American cuisine was likely intentional. Monday’s practice was conducted almost entirely in Spanish.
Here are some of the scenes captured on the first day of training.
Inter Miami has already put up some impressive numbers — including 476,000 Instagram followers and nearly 96,000 twitter followers. Those numbers will only grow as we move further in to 2020.
“Every milestone we hit, everything becomes more real,” said Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough, who has been working seemingly nonstop with his staff to complete the roster. The construction crews are working overtime to get the facilities ready before the first home game on March 14. “Now we’ve got players, a coach, grass, preseason, six weeks and we’re kicking off March 1. It’s very real.”
Monday’s first practice saw twenty-two players in camp, including Argentine 25-year-old centre back Jorge Nicolás Figal, who played for Club Atlético Independiente de Avellaneda in greater Buenos Aires. He has been called up to Argentina’s national team on a few occasions, and Inter Miami are currently in talks with Independiente to sign him, according to McDonough.
There are still about six more players expected to be added to the Inter roster. McDonough said he’s looking to add two more Designated Players – players whose salaries do not count against the team’s maximum salary budget cap of $4.24 million per MLS roster rules.
“We still have some more players to sign, so hopefully that will happen this week, next week, we’re not ready yet,” McDonough said. “Preseason is six weeks. We’ve got a lot of guys in, so they’ll get integrated now. We’ll integrate the others as they come. It’s a long season, I’ve learned this from doing it a couple of times. We need to be patient and not do anything rash.”
Asked about the positions he is looking to fill, McDonough said: “A couple of defenders, midfielders, and two attacking players. We’re six away…I feel very happy with the players we have here. Could we start this way? Yeah … But we’re going to add some more special players and I think that will push us over the top.”
Looking at reports that have surfaced in recent weeks, Inter Miami has been looking at Roger Martinez (Club America, Mexico City), Dorlan Pabón (CF Monterrey, Mexico), Agustín Almendra (CA Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires), and Lewis Morgan (Celtic FC, Glasgow, Scotland). All reportedly have been the subjects of transfer talks with the club.
Inter Miami has been linked to a long list of international superstars — names like James Rodriguez, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, David Silva, to name a few. Asked what he would say to fans concerned they have not signed the star player co-owners Beckham and Jorge Mas had promised, McDonough replied:
“For me it’s more important that we put a team on the field that’s going to win. That might be a big name. Or, it might be a young player like Miguel Almirón (who went from Atlanta United to Newcastle in an MLS-record $27 million transfer) that’s going to come in here under the radar and all of a sudden when he gets in the league, people say, ‘Oh, I didn’t realise he was that good.”
As for a big name European star, it’s been reported by English media that David Silva, Manchester City’s Spanish veteran, is on his way to Inter Miami, and would likely start after his contract expires in June. But McDonough stressed on Monday he doesn’t want to save a Designated Player spot until summer: “I don’t think it makes sense to leave a designated spot for summer,” he explained. “They’d play a full season until May, then tournaments like the Euros and Copa again, now you’re looking at getting them for 10 games; and I don’t think that’s what’s best for the club.”
If there is one thing McDonough has done a good job of since arriving in Miami, it has been to block out the noise. It’s a skill he has learned while building the expansion rosters at Orlando City and Atlanta United.
“One of the things about being in Miami is that the fans do have very high expectations,” he said. “Fans are very educated here, so they’re going to hold us to very high standard, which I think is OK. We want that kind of pressure.”
For now, the objective is to get players and coaches acquainted, develop team chemistry, and bridge the language gap. Robles, whose father is Puerto Rican and mother is South Korean, vowed to improve on his limited Spanish. Head coach Diego Alonso, a Uruguayan who coached in Mexico, told the players he will work on his English.
“I realized right away that my Spanish is a lot better in text form than spoken. In order to help new guys navigate the challenges of this league, I’m going to have to speak to them in Spanish.”
“We have a blend of cultures, heavily Hispanic, and guys based in the United States, and need to find understanding between both sides,” Robles said. “[Alonso’s] lead, that he wants to learn English right away, will cause English guys to speak Spanish to bridge that gap.
Training camp continued all week long at Barry University. On Wednesday afternoon, Diego Alonso was formally introduced to the media at a press conference held after that day’s training session. Today, the team travelled to Port Saint Lucie.
The next training sessions continue in Port Saint Lucie and Bradenton, before returning to Fort Lauderdale Feb. 7-14. From there, it’s on to Saint Petersburg from Feb. 15-23, and back to Fort Lauderdale for the final few days before flying out to Los Angeles for the Rosanegro’s first-ever game against last year’s Supporters Shield winners, Los Angeles Football Club.