Inter Miami was destined to tear the rumor mill from its foundations. Between David Beckham's Rolodex, the lure of South Beach and the ambition of the Mas brothers, no target was too big to be believed as the club set out to fill its Designated Player spots for Year 1.
Be honest, after all the starts and stops and all the headlines, we all expected more than big names. It was Miami. It was Beckham. We wanted to be wowed. We came to expect world-class players, maybe a Galactico or two.
So far, 25 days away from their long-awaited MLS debut, no Galacticos. Only one DP, Argentine teenager Matias Pellegrini. Meanwhile, the MLS world, myself included, is not-so-patiently waiting to see how and by whom the most high-profile remaining roster holes in the league will be filled.
Inter Miami, for their part, don’t seem too concerned. Internally, there’s long been a feeling that it’s better to be the tortoise and not the hare when building your very first roster. In other words, opening day is not the day that matters most.
As with Diego Alonso and the long-open, much-discussed head coaching position, it’s clear Jorge Mas, David Beckham and Paul McDonough are perfectly content to go at their own pace. If your goal is to paint a masterpiece, why rush the final brush strokes? Why risk the long-term health of the project for instant gratification?
“We are still building the team,” Mas told reporters in late January. “You will see five or six players incorporated into the team in the coming weeks. We are less interested in the name of these players, but more so in their character.”
Translation: We see the rumor mill churning – right now it’s Edinson Cavani, Luka Modric, Roger Martinez and Rodolfo Pizarro’s names splashed across the headlines – but we won’t be a slave to expectations that aren’t our own, salacious headline writers or concerned talking heads.
So, on the DP front, Inter Miami wait. They wait, per The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio, for a buyout agreement with Monterrey that would bring El Tri midfielder Pizarro to South Florida. They wait to see if Martinez can be enticed north as well. If not – if it’s too complicated, expensive, both or the deal is already dead – they may wait for summer, when new targets will inevitably emerge.
No matter how those deals play out, after the last week saw three additions come in, by Mas' own math there are still two or three more additions to go before the club’s inaugural road trip to Banc of California Stadium to take on LAFC, the defending Supporters’ Shield champions and most recent expansion team de jour. As Mas promised, the club chose character over name value.
Wil Trapp might not have the cultural sway in Miami that he did in Columbus, but he’s in-his-prime captain material. Lewis Morgan might not have name recognition on this side of the Atlantic, but he’s a versatile attacker aching for the opportunity it seems he’ll get with Inter. Nico Figal may still be waiting for his first Argentina cap, but he’s betting swapping Independiente for MLS will keep him on Lionel Scaloni's radar after a September call-up opened the door.
At least two of the three will be starters on March 1 when Inter Miami begin their MLS journey. We’ll know a little bit more about how Alonso sees things after Friday’s friendly against the Charleston Battery. For now, here’s a guess (key word) at Inter Miami’s first-ever XI.
You may have questions. I do, too. Here’s what I feel pretty good about: Luis Robles in goal, Ben Sweat at left back, Figal and Roman Torres at center back, Trapp at d-mid, Pellegrini on the wing and Julian Carranza up top. Barring an injury or another signing, both real possibilities, I think those seven would be on the field in some capacity if Inter Miami played a game today.
I am less sure about right back – there are three guys fighting it out for those minutes: No. 3-overall SuperDraft pick Dylan Nealis, Jamaican international Alvas Powell and veteran A.J. DeLaGarza – and the midfield, where the addition of Pizarro could see Morgan make way on the left flank, Victor Ulloa removed for more attacking situations or Lee Nguyen to the bench in a like-for-like swap. Juan Agudelo has more than enough talent and experience to win a spot, too. I’m not on the training field. I don’t know.
What I do know is that projected lineup, especially with Pizarro included, is just as good on paper, if not better, than what LAFC ran out in their first-ever MLS match.
Back in 2018, we would have looked at that XI and poked holes in it. “Latif Blessing, a central midfielder? Mark-Anthony Kaye, the USL player? Marco Urena? His best is in the past. The same might be said for Laurent Ciman. Dejan Jakovic is a good depth piece, but probably not a starter. Tyler Miller is unproven. Same for Joao Moutinho. Carlos Vela is class and Benny Feilhaber and Steven Beitashour are reliable vets, but Diego Rossi might not work out.”
Spoiler: It worked out, because LAFC's first XI was a just a starting point, not the finished article. Better to be the tortoise, not the hare.
Which brings us back to Inter Miami, from which we shouldn’t expect the finished product on the first day. Roster flexibility is too valuable with the summer looming. The future is still unknown. Their expansion project will improve over time, same as LAFC and same as Atlanta United before them. The DP spots will be filled. There’s no rush. Better to plod along toward long-term success than handcuff yourself trying to get there too soon.
That leaves one job for the rest of us. Sit back and enjoy the process. Maybe we'll get a Galactico after all.