There haven't been many dull moments with Inter Miami since David Beckham brought the team into the league in 2018. From a rushed roster build and a lawsuit to Inter Milan to failing to secure a stadium space or a sponsor, the team's existence has been filled with drama right from the beginning. But the cherry on top was the Herons getting a two million dollar fine and a 2.1 million dollar reduction to their available allocation money that would be spread out over the 2022 and 23 seasons.
These sanctions were levied against the team for underreporting the salaries for Blasie Matuidi, Andres Reyas, Leandro Gonalez Pirez, Nicolas Figal, and Julian Carranza. In effect the league ruled that team had lied in order to make it appear that their roster compliant with the MLS salary cap while also carrying only three designated players on the team. There are agreements that allow teams to either offer bonuses or buy down a player's salary to make a team roster compliant but those situations must be reported to, and approved by, MLS.
Miami's failure to abide by those rules meant that when Gonzalo Higuain was signed, Miami had four designated players instead of the three allowed by the league. When more digging was done my MLS, the other infractions were found, leading to sanctions and a full turnover of the Miami front office. What's funny is that even though the Herons were paying their players more than they were allowed, the team has never made the playoffs and finished 11th in the Eastern Conference last season allowing 53 goals.
This turmoil led to Miami shedding a whopping 18 players during the off-season so far and bringing in 13 new faces to replace them. Head coach Phil Neville spoke about how this is his squad now and that the team will be able to play the way that he likes now. And, in a sense, he's right as he got to remake almost half the roster during only one offseason. Based on Neville's managerial history, you can make an argument that he shouldn't get to oversee a rebuild of this magnitude, but he's committed to life in Miami and David Beckham is committed to him. So, for better or worse, welcome to Phil Neville's Inter Miami.
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The most recognizable new face is DeAndre Yedlin coming back to MLS after terminating his contract with Galatasaray by mutual consent during the winter after only one year with the team. Currently, Galatasaray are closer to being relegated from the Turkish Super League than they are to securing a European spot, so it's easy to see why Yedlin would prefer an opportunity to come back to America after bouncing around Europe since leaving Seattle. With consistent minutes he could even book a trip to the World Cup in Qatar with the United States men's national team, so the motivation to play and perform is there.
Yedlin is joined by USA youth prospect CJ Dos Santos who has left Benfica after spending the past four seasons with their youth sides since leaving the Philadelphia Union Academy. At 21, Dos Santos needs playing time under his belt, and considering the state of Miami's defense last season, he'll have a chance to earn some. Damian Lowe is another familiar Concacaf name coming from Ittihad Alexandria in the Egyptian Premier League to also bolster the defensive corps.
To replace Julian Carranza and Lewis Morgan in attack, Leonardo Campana joins on loan from Wolves after mixed loan spells in Europe that saw him only make 46 appearances scoring nine goals and assisting four more. The young Ecuadorian is highly rated but he'll have to make good on that potential in Miami to get his career on track and possibly secure a permanent move.
The Herons also dipped into the South American market to add intriguing names such as Emerson Rodriguez and Jean Mota to improve the starting XI. Ariel Lassiter and Bryce Duke could be nice budget signings from within the league to help build out a roster as well. But with all the excitement around the new faces, they have to get a chance to gel on the field.
During the preseason Neville needed matches with something on the line to get everyone up to speed so Miami took part in the Breeze Airways Carolina Challange Cup (boy is that a mouthful). It helped as they won the tournament with a 2-1 victory over Charlotte FC to secure the title which is technically their first trophy as a club. While it is a preseason trophy, for Neville, it's step one to building a winning mentality.
Playing in the tournament, talented defender Ian Fray tore his ACL giving the team quite the blow. It is, however, Neville, and the club's, reaction to that injury that might provide a peak at what the English manager hopes to build in Miami.
"Yeah. Well, first thing on Ian, when he did it on Tuesday morning, it affected the whole group. It affected the whole club because thinking about what he went through 12 months ago and then and then that the work, the determination, the sacrifice that he put in to come back in incredible shape, and he has been without doubt one of our best players in pre-season." said Neville,
Neville continued to speak about how the team went out to get pizza after to comfort Fray and how he discussed that Fray needs to focus on recovery and will be integrated into the first team when he is back because Fray has talent to be an MLS regular and maybe to make a jump to Europe one day.
To go that in-depth about a 19-year-old on the team shows the togetherness of the team even with so much change along with Neville's attention to each of his players. For Miami to be successful, they'll need to play as an organized unit and from this brief peek behind the curtain, they have a chance to do just that.
Led by Gonzalo Higuain who is back for another MLS season, Miami could finish fifth in the Eastern Conference or dead last and it wouldn't be surprising. Higuain scored 12 goals and assisted nine more last season after needing to get in shape from a disappointing 2020 season that only saw him score once. The most important goal scorer and creator on the team, a lot will be asked of Higuain but he has the captain's armband for a reason.
He'll be behind Campana in the lineup and both will hope that Keiran Gibbs can put good crosses into the box from left back. Gibbs scored one goal last season which isn't a problem, but he'll need to make more than six key passes this year if the forwards hope to have enough service to thrive. The addition of Yedlin will provide more space to operate but things like this are why Miami are such a hard team to peg heading into the season. If the pieces from the roster build work this will be a tough side to get by but if they don't the wheels will fall off spectacularly. It's all in Neville's hands to ensure that everyone is in the right position to succeed but it is his team after all so he wouldn't have it any other way.