With the news that Inter Miami's Blaise Matuidi is officially available to make his MLS debut on Sunday against Nashville SC (8 pm ET | FS1 in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada), the fellow expansion side are ready for the boost he'll provide.
Matuidi signed with Miami in August but had yet to join full team training until Friday. The 33-year-old World Cup winner joins Miami after three seasons with reigning Italian champions Juventus and six seasons with French giants Paris Saint-Germain. He was a regular with Juventus in his final season with the club and is ready to officially start life with Miami.
“There’s a hell of a difference one individual can make, particularly a guy with the caliber of this player," Nashville head coach Gary Smith told reporters on a virtual press conference Friday. "A World Cup winner who played at the highest level. Even if he’s not on the field to begin with, his presence in the locker room and not being a million miles from competing will give everyone a lift.”
Miami have played often in a 3-4-2-1, where Matuidi could slot in as one of the central midfielders. His availability is a boost for Miami, as his side lost 1-0 to Nashville last week then tied Atlanta United0-0 on Wednesday.
“We know what we’re going to get from Miami," Nashville rookie defender Alistair Johnston said. "We just faced them last week. They’ll be looking to get some revenge on us but we’re hoping to go down there and steal some points.”
Johnston has been a revelation for Nashville so far in their expansion season. Selected No. 11 overall in the MLS SuperDraft this winter, Johnston has quickly worked his way up the Nashville depth chart. He's started four of the last five games and came on at halftime for the lone game he didn't start.
“It really isn’t that difficult to go into a backline that has Walker Zimmerman, Dave Romney and Daniel Lovitz," Johnston said. "It’s so sturdy. Joe [Willis] behind us and two pivots that are so good, in Dax and Godoy. My job wasn’t difficult to jump in there.”