Aside from feeling that Miami are ready for a step forward in 2021, the game carries added incentive for co-owner and president of soccer operations David Beckham. He spent 2007-12 playing for the Galaxy, starting his long-winding road toward leading an MLS club of his own. It’ll be the first time Miami and LA face off.
“It will probably be the first time that I won’t want LA Galaxy to win,” Beckham joked during a TUDN interview this week. “So we’re very excited about the game. The fact that we’re obviously coming into this season, we’ve made a lot of changes. Obviously we have a new coach, a few new players that have come into the team. So we’re really excited.”
As Beckham noted, it’s been an offseason of change for Inter Miami on and off the field. Phil Neville is their new head coach and Chris Henderson has joined from the Seattle Sounders as chief soccer officer and sporting director.
With those two pieces in place, Miami have added players from within MLS and overseas. From the latter bucket, goalkeeper Nick Marsman, center back Ryan Shawcross, left back Kieran Gibbs (July arrival) and midfielder Gregore all project as key contributors. They’ve also landed ex-Seattle fullbacks Joevin Jones and Kelvin Leerdam, with Jones capable of playing on the wing.
All along, Miami are working toward a consistent identity that proves fruitful on the pitch. They have big-name stars like Gonzalo Higuain, Blaise Matuidi and Rodolfo Pizarro, but Beckham wants their calling card to extend beyond that.
“When people turn around to us and say, ‘What kind of team do you want to be? Do you want to be a defensive team? Do you want to be an attacking team? Who do you want to play like?,’ simple answer: We want a winning team, but we want a winning team that’s going to play [with] hard work, we want to be humble,” Beckham said. “Because at the end of the day we are in Miami, people associate that with a bit of glitz, a bit of glamour. The most important thing out there is that we’re humble, we’re hardworking, we’re dedicated and we win. Simple as that. Even if we don’t win we work hard doing it.”
Miami squeaked into the playoffs in 2020, qualifying as the 10th team in an expanded Eastern Conference field. This go-around, only the top seven teams from each conference will make the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
That quest starts this Sunday against LA, who Miami were originally scheduled to square off against three games into the 2020 season. But with the COVID-19 pandemic prompting regionalized schedules, that high-profile encounter had to wait a year.
“It was a difficult moment,” Beckham said of 2020, “but would I say it’s a success on the field? No, because yes it was great to reach the playoffs, but I think we want more than that. We’re more ambitious than that. Of course winning Supporters’ Shield is important, being up there with the best teams in this league is important. But the ultimate goal is the MLS Cup.”