The 2022 MLS campaign has long been over and the unforgiving nature of the single-elimination Audi MLS Cup Playoffs sends another six clubs to the offseason after Round One, joining 14 clubs that missed the postseason.
Here, we'll be covering three questions for every team moving forward. Think of it as an exit interview, if you will. Matt Doyle, as always, has you covered on his preeminent season-in-review for each club (Miami version). Read that, too.
He has gifs. It’s tough to beat gifs.
Inter Miami CF were among the most pleasant surprises in MLS this year. Clearly in a rebuilding year – with an expansion-like offseason without the benefits (or clean slate) of an expansion team – expectations were low in South Florida.
A fun, scrappy group under Phil Neville kept the team competitive, then a renaissance from Gonzalo Higuain and a key acquisition of Alejandro Pozuelo led the team to the playoffs. Though they lost in Round One at New York City FC, Miami have real reasons for optimism for the future.
What does the offseason hold?
Miami could have as many as three Designated Player spots to fill this offseason.
Higuain has retired, so that opens one. Rodolfo Pizarro won’t be back/counting as a DP like this year despite not being at the club, so that opens two. And Pozuelo is out of contract, so that opens three.
They may not have three external additions to make, though. Pizarro could be back after spending 2022 on loan at Monterrey in Liga MX. He said he wants to be back. There’ll be discussions there moving forward. If Pozuelo doesn’t return after the midseason trade arrival from Toronto FC, Miami will likely take a DP swing on a No. 10.
Then the future of Leo Campana has to be decided as well. It’s my firm expectation Campana is back – that’s a no-brainer, as he’s on loan from Wolves with no future at the Premier League side – but depending on what the purchase option is, will he have to be a DP? We’ll see. Campana had 11g/2a in just under 1,600 minutes this year, a very good U22 Initiative signing.
Over the two transfer windows during the 2022 season, Miami’s transactions page was busier than expansion side Charlotte FC. There were about 19 players in and 22 players out, give or take.
It was legitimately like a new team. Chris Henderson and the front office were able to move off of deals they didn’t sign in an effort to reset the cap/roster makeup. It was very impressive. After a playoff appearance, and a lot of players gone permanently, where does the club feel they are this winter? Will it be a few high-leverage additions plus some continued subtractions, or do they feel they need more work?
Miami and Los Angeles will always have “big name”, older players from Europe open to joining their projects. Sometimes that comes with deals for lifestyle.
Other times it can lead to bad decisions. Higuain wasn’t so great over the entire 2.5 years here and even admitted he thought he could just walk around and dominate the league. Then, well, there’s the whole Blaise Matuidi thing for Miami. Ryan Shawcross wasn’t good and Kieran Gibbs hasn’t been, either.
Miami’s winter saw numerous young players arrive and make positive impacts, particularly relative to their budget charge. Campana, Duke, Robert Taylor and Drake Callender, to name a few, come to mind there. They considered going with a Young DP in the No. 10 role, but the price (and lack of commitment) for Pozuelo was too attractive to pass up.
There have been rumors of Sergio Busquets joining from Barcelona. There will always be rumors concerning Lionel Messi when he leaves PSG (those rumors have legs). They will be linked with any number of “old stars” this winter, you can bank on that. They’ll have the opportunity to sign plenty (teams get offered players all the time; particularly so if you’re one of the LA or Miami teams).
It’s not about saying “no” to them all. It’s about signing only the right ones who have the right motivations/mentality.
A few more thoughts:
- Will 4-2-3-1 or 5-3-2 be the primary formation next year? Guess that depends on DP signings.
- Which young players, like Noah Allen, will be ready for more minutes?
- How many new starters will arrive?