Inter Miami was one of the worst (and illegally) built expansion teams in recent MLS history.
Just two players dressed for the Herons opening game in 2020 – Victor Ulloa and Robbie Robinson — are still on the team.
A reorganization after the first season resulted in a new coach (Phil Neville) and new sports director (Chris Henderson).
They were soon hampered when MLS threw the book at Inter Miami over a series of irregularities about how they created their 2020 squad. Inter Miami was fined $2 million – the largest in MLS history – and lost $2,271,250 in allotment funds spread over the 2022 and 2023 seasons as a further penalty.
That impact was felt as Inter Miami attempted to rebuild from a 12-17-5 in 2021. It started 0-4-1 in 2022 but has since gone 6-3-2 and sits in ninth place with 22 points. just three points behind three teams that are bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff zone but all three have a game in hand.
Yes, Inter Miami’s launch has been a struggle – six years after it was first announced David Beckham exercised its option to purchase an MLS extension for the opening game in 2020 on the eve of the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown – and the first two seasons have been difficult but there are finally signs of optimism from Fort Lauderdale.
“Everyone’s excited,” said the US national team veteran DeAndre Yedlin, one of Inter Miami’s signings of 2022, is back in MLS after seven years in Europe. “All hum.”
He said the slow start to 2022 shouldn’t have been unexpected.
“Things take time,” he said. “Things take a lot of time and it’s not easy to build a team. You have to find the right characters. Everyone needs to be bought into the plan and to the credit of everyone, including employees. Everyone bought into it. We’ve managed to create a culture that we’re pretty happy about and continue to build on. We have winners here and it creeps into the academies, into the second team. And then you found an association that makes history.”
At the media conference on Thursday, Yedlin had two young players from Inter Miami, 18 years old, next to him Noah Allen and 15 years old Jacob Morales (Photo).
Allen, the 2021 USL League One Young Player of the Year, was signed with the first team at the start of the 2022 MLS season and scored for the USA in Sunday’s 6-0 win over the Dominican Republic to secure Concacaf U- 20 championship.
Morales, the son of the former MLS star Javier Morales, was named MVP in the Under-15 category in the MLS Next Cup playoffs after scoring and assisting Inter Miami in their 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake in the final. The U-15 followed the success of Inter Miami U-17, semi-finalists at the 2022 GA Cup.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Yedlin, “but it’s a good sign because I think we’re on an incline right now. We’re going up. And we’re going to try to keep making progress.”
In their last two games, the Herons beat Minnesota United 2-1 on goals Indiana Vasilyev in the 87th and 90th minute, FC Dallas equalized 1-1 in Frisco Leo CampanaGoal in the 88th minute.
“Hopefully we’re moving into a zone where we can start dominating teams and end the game early by leading 2-0, 3-0,” Yedlin said. “I think it’s just at the end of the day, we just have to be more clinical in front of goal. And that comes from everyone.”
That everyone now includes the Spanish midfielder Alejandro Pozuelothe 2020 MLS MVP, acquired by Toronto FC on Thursday for an amount of GAM to be determined, and a French forward Corentin Jeanacquired from Lens.
“When this became an opportunity for us, he fit our position profiles that we were looking for,” said Pozuelo’s Henderson. “Alejandro suits us well and we’ve crossed the finish line. Some of those deals are tough and we’re glad we got him.”
The deal appears to be a steal despite Pozuelo, a player-designate, finding himself in the final year of his MLS contract, leaving Inter Miami with plenty of decisions ahead of the 2023 season.
“It’s not just about not playing FIFA 22 anymore,” Neville said. “We actually go through processes with people. A lot of hours, a lot of scouting, we watch a lot of football, we talk to a lot of people and we bring the right people and characters to the team.”
Henderson said he met Pozuelo at the airport on Wednesday night and the Spaniard was thrilled to contribute to the Heron.
“He’s fit, he doesn’t have to go through any preseason,” Neville added. “He’s adapted to the league, he doesn’t have to adapt.”