2023 Season Preview: Inter Miami CF
Updated: Feb 22
Welcome to the Inter Miami CF preview! I have high expectations for this group heading into the season. Chris Henderson and Phil Neville now have a full offseason and preseason together and a foundation to build upon from last year. I know this is the last year of their sanction but at the same time, there were roster moves last year to mitigate the effects this year.
Record: 14-6-14 (48 points/6th in East)
Team Leader Goals: Gonzalo Higuain 16, Leonardo Campana 11, Ariel Lassiter 4
Team Leader Assists: Bryce Duke 7, Alejandro Pozuelo 6, Ariel Lassiter 5
Manager: Phil Neville (3rd season)
-LW Rodolfo Pizarro (return loan from Monterrey/28 years old),
-CF Josef Martinez (free from Atlanta United/29 years old),
-CB Sergii Kryvtsov (free from Shakhtar Donetsk/31 years old),
-LB Franco Negri (free from Godoy Cruz/27 years old),
-CF/CAM Nicolas Stefanelli ($803k transfer from AIK Solna/28 years old),
-RW Jake LaCava ($150k GAM trade from St. Louis City SC/22 years old)
-CF Shanyer Borgelin (Homegrown, Haitian International/21 years old)
-CM Benjamin Cremaschi (Homegrown American/Argentine U-20 International/17 years old)
-Leonardo Campana (Picked up option to buy from Wolverhampton Wanderers (~2.2m fee)/22 years old)
-CF Gonzalo Higuain (retired/35 years old)
-CAM Alejandro Pozuelo (free to Konyaspor/31 years old)
-CB Damian Lowe (29 years old)
*Philadelphia Union receives Damion Lowe.
*Inter Miami receives 225K GAM, Boreglins priority homegrown rights, and 2024 first-round draft pick)
-RW Emerson Rodriguez (loan to Santos Laguna/22 years old)
-LW Indiana Vassilev (Expansion Draft Pick to St Louis SC/21 years old)
-CM Mo Adams (Mutual Contract Termination/25 years old),
-LB Joevin Jones (free agent/31 years old),
-LB Brek Shea (free agent/32 years old)
-CAM George Acosta (free agent/23 years old)
-LB Kieran Gibbs (Mutual Contract Termination/33 years old)
Designated Players: Leonardo Camapana (Young DP), Rodolfo Pizarro (Senior DP).
Injuries going into 2023
-Left-back Noah Allen (MCL)
-Center-back Ian Fray (almost done recovering from ACL tear)
-Robbie Robinson (minor knock)
The Kings Return?
(USA today: Josef Martinez)
-By far the biggest question for this team is how they are replacing the goals scored by Gonzalo Higuain. Inter Miami's solution so far is the addition of Atlanta United legend, Josef Martinez. Josef has proven himself in this league before but after his ACL tear he suffered in 2020 he hasn't been the same player since. However, as seen last season he is still very capable of scoring goals with 9g/4a. Given that he does not count as a Designated Player nor an international roster slot (green card), the cards were in favor of Miami. With some brilliant business by GM Chris Henderson, Atlanta United is covering a good portion of Josef's salary this year. Also in question is Josef's attitude. Numerous times throughout the 2022 season, reports came out that Josef Martinez was portraying a poor attitude and at one point being suspended from the team for "conduct detrimental to the team." Maybe it could work for Miami or maybe not but it is a low-risk high reward deal for Miami.
-Miami has also solved a problem looming since its inaugural season. A starting left-back. Brek Shea, Joevin Jones, Kieran Gibbs, and Noah Allen have played there before but for the majority of the season last year, Phil Neville placed his trust in center-back Christopher McVey. He serviced there pretty well but it was clear it was not his natural position so looking forward, Miamis solution is Franco Negri from Godoy Cruz. Miami does have homegrown U-20 USA International Noah Allen but unfortunately, he has suffered an MCL tear and will be out for a couple of months. For years, Miami has left a lot to be desired coming out of the left side. Most of Miami's attack came out of their right side in 2022. This year, Phil Neville is working towards balancing both sides. Franco Negri is known to have speed and an ability to whip in a good cross. This mirrors DeAndre Yedlins' profile who is the starting right-back. Having a starting caliber left back is enormous when it comes to moving the ball forward. This is vital because most of Miami's play will not involve wingers so they will depend on their full backs/wing backs to push up higher to cover. More on this later.
-Another huge question on this roster is the center-back position. In 2022, Miami was 7th from the top in goals against (56). It is fair to say that Miamis' defense was sub-par at best last year. Many of the goals came out of mistakes and lapses of concentration from the central defense. Unfortunately, center-back Damion Lowe was responsible for a good portion of those mistakes. Although his stats excel in tackles, interceptions, and blocks, there was some room for improvement in Aerial duels and tackles won. Miamis' solution was the departure of Damion Lowe (trade details under 'Subtractions') and the acquisition of Sergii Kryvtsov from Shakhtar Donetsk. The Ukranian International excels in aerial duels and tackles won but it comes at the cost of what Lowe was good at. What Kryvtsov is, Lowe isn't, and vice versa. Miami felt comfortable taking this gamble because Mcvey who was playing out of position at left-back can now slot in his natural position (because of the signing of Franco Negri) at center-back. Miami also has decent backup options if either goes down injured with 2021 and 2022 draft picks Aime Mabika and Ryan Sailor respectively. There is also Ian Fray who is coming back after 2 straight years of an ACL tear. More on him later throughout the year if he gets some minutes but remember the name. Ian Fray.
-Getty Images: Jean Mota (left) and Gregore (right)
The spine of the team. Throughout pre-season Miami has tried a 4-diamond midfield (4-4-2 diamond). Gregore as the Central-Defensive midfielder, Pizzaro and Jean Mota as the dual box-to-box midfielders, and new addition Nico Stefanelli as the Central-attacking midfielder. Let's start with Gregore. Gregore is a pure destroyer when it comes to his role on the team, he plays both the 6 and 8 positions but no matter what he's a pit bull. Recently, he has played more of an 8 (box-to-box) than a 6 (CDM). In 2022 he was top 3 in the entire league for tackles won (56). He was named captain during the 2021 and 2022 seasons and has also been named captain for the 2023 season. A huge part of the spine in the midfield is the partnership of Gregore and Jean Mota. Jean Mota, signed last season dropped back from an 8 to a 6 (In a 4-3-3) swapping with Gregore to be a deep-lying playmaker as the season went on. At the time Miami was struggling to build out of the back and Mota excels in his passing capabilities. In 2022 this helped break through the opposition midfield. This also creates a double pivot between Gregore and Mota. If one progresses with the attack, the other stays behind to cover. This partnership will be key in 2023. Now the elephant in the room, Rodolfo Pizarro. Pizarro is not a 10. I cannot stress this enough, he is not a 10. He is a left winger. Given this team is not utilizing wingers, will he start? This roster build allows Miami to change formations without the need for a substitution. But still, does it work to his strengths? Miami hoped they could offload him with the loan with an option to buy to Monterrey but given a poor season there, Monterrey didn't want to pick up the buy option. Now that he's here and nobody else wants to buy him, we can't have a DP sitting on the bench half the season (cue Higuain flashbacks). The only other position Miami can put him in in the diamond 4 is the other eight position. Pizarro had exemplary ball-carrying skills but has the tendency to not pass the ball when needed and he dribbles into nothing and wastes an attacking chance. Bryce Duke (22) is breathing down Pizarro's neck though. Bryce Duke was purchased from LAFC for 100K GAM in 2022 had a breakout season last year and lead the team with assists (8). He can play both the 8 and 10 roles. If Pizarro carries on his form from last year, Duke is a formidable option. We can only hope for the best. Now for the BIGGEST question on this roster. The 10 position. With Pozuelo gone this is a position that needs to be filled ASAP. The only reason why we let Pozuelo walk was that we couldn't give him the contract he wanted and left a DP spot open for the summer. In the latest pre-season game against Austin (2-2 draw), new addition Nicolas Stefanelli played the 10 and he did pretty well. Clearly not a natural 10 but he can be a stop-gap until the summer when Miami most likely will use their last DP slot on a certain Argentine World Cup winner (more on this later). I have heard nothing but positive things about Nico so let's hope he does well.
Wingers or 2 Strikers?
The loan of winger Emerson Rodriguez to Liga MX indicates Miami has fully invested in the 2 striker system, most likely with Campana and Josef up top. Emerson was the only player on the roster (besides Goalkeepers) that didn't have a secondary position. However, Josef isn't 100% healthy for the beginning of the season but he can do a good 45-60 minute shift. With this substitution will Miami put another CF or will they shift to wingers? Campana, I believe will always pull 90-minute games unless he goes down with an injury. Campana's hold-up play is stellar and can tower over most defenders. He's a weapon with aerial duels In the friendly against Austin, Miami shifted from a 4-4-2 diamond to a 4-3-3, and winger/CF Coco Jean scored 5 minutes later. Switching midgame is huge for players that naturally like to play on the wing such as technically gifted Robert Taylor and speedy Ariel Lassiter. This roster is very attack heavy so Miami can toy with many different formations up top and see what sticks. If one goes down with an injury, plenty can fill the position (Coco Jean, Nico, La Cava, Borgelin) or Miami can easily switch formation with ease.
(Drake Callender: IMCF)
No doubt homegrown Drake Callender is the starter now after a breakout season last year and becoming one of the goalkeeper finalists of the year. He recently received a contract extension through 2025. His shot-stopping ability is top-tier in this league but he leaves a lot to be desired when the ball is at his feet. However, this can be learned over time. Now number 2, Nick Marsman is the number 3 most paid goalkeeper in the league and takes up an international roster slot. His contract expires at the end of this season so he's playing for a new contract. There is also CJ Dos Santos and draft-pick Cole Jenson. These goalkeepers will probably get most of their minutes with the second team unless Marsman or Callender picks up an injury.
The Tale of Messi
I will say this, the longer Messi does not renew with PSG, the higher chance Miami will have to acquire him. I can tell you Messi will NOT receive a Beckham-type deal with ownership of an expansion club. MLS communications have stated on multiple occasions that nobody else will receive a Beckham deal. However, what Messi is probably getting if he signs for Miami is an ownership stake with Inter Miami CF after his contract ends. Obviously, the signing of Messi will throw this league into an absolute frenzy. Comparable to Pele signing with the New York Cosmos in the 1970s. (Opinion: I don't think it's a coincidence the Apple TV deal came out this year)
Next game: CF Montreal, February 25th at DRV PNK stadium.
Prediction: 2-1 Miami win.