With the No. 1 and No. 3 selections of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, all eyes were on Inter Miami on draft day. But those aren't the only additions sporting director Paul McDonough was focused on.
The club converted those picks into Clemson forward Robbie Robinson and Georgetown fullback Dylan Nealis, adding to their inaugural roster. But, with Robinson as just the fourth forward on a squad that has a plethora of international slots still waiting to be used, as well as room for two more Designated Players, Miami soon hope to add more, including a big one. According to McDonough, Miami have agreed a transfer fee for a potential DP striker and are working on personal terms.
“We have significant international players still to sign," McDonough told MLSsoccer.com Thursday during the SuperDraft. "We have an international winger that we’ve got agreed, we’re doing personal terms with. We have a DP striker that we’ve agreed [a fee] with the club, trying to see if we can get personal terms done. We have midfielders we’re trying to secure and one or two center backs.”
McDonough added that he hopes all those deals he mentioned will be done ASAP, though conceded one or two players might come in after the club play their season opener on March 1. Particularly with the remaining two DPs, though, McDonough is intent on acquiring them long before the summer.
“The goal for us is to try and fill now, to come out of the gates and be successful from day one," McDonough said. "With the major tournaments like Copa America and the Euros, if you wait to sign a DP in the summer, the impact he can have would be very minimal.”
Ostensibly, that would rule out previously linked Manchester City midfielder David Silva, who announced he'll be leaving City this summer. As for the DP striker, Miami have been linked with Club America and Colombia star forward Roger Martinez while out wide, Celtic winger Lewis Morgan is the latest name to be reported.
With the plethora of big-name players rumored to be joining the club, all landing somewhere on the gamut from factual to wildly inaccurate, Miami find themselves in the unenviable position in which expectations for whoever they sign are sky-high. It's not something that weighs on McDonough, though.
“No, I don’t feel pressure to sign a big name," McDonough said flatly. "I feel pressure to win. I know there’s pressure from the outside, but I don’t feel any pressure to build a team. I feel pressure to build a successful team, I think there’s a lot of different ways to do that. I think if I built Atlanta United down here, everybody would be happy.”
Before filling some of those international spots, though, McDonough couldn't have been happier with how the SuperDraft went. The club viewed Robinson as the draft-eligible player with the most talent and Nealis the most pro-ready of the bunch.
“When I met with Robbie, I said to him 'look, it might be hard for you to step in and play for us right away,'" McDonough recalled. "What I liked about him is that he responded: ‘If you don’t think I can play for you, why are you going to draft me?’ I think he’s got his work cut out for him, but I think in Diego [Alonso]’s system he’ll have the opportunity to grow and develop."
While Robinson is a natural center forward, McDonough noted that the club view him as versatile enough to play on the wings, opening up ancillary avenues to provide playing time for the No. 1 pick. Nealis, meanwhile, can challenge for regular playing time from day one on the backline.
“Our opinion is that [Nealis] was the most pro-ready guy in the draft," McDonough said. "We went back and forth at whether we were going to take him at No. 1 because we weren’t sure he was going to be there at No. 3.
McDonough also said the club fielded calls to gauge their interest in potentially trading one of their picks last week, but the club thought it made more sense to keep the selections. Drafting Robinson and Nealis is exactly what the club hoped.
“This is an ideal scenario for us," McDonough concluded.