Football runs deep in my soul. Everyone has a story behind how they fell in love with the sport but mine is different and more emotionally painful than you can imagine. All those stories will come out over time but it runs deeper than just loving a football team that loses important matches. It runs deeper than just having your team go bankrupt and cease to exist, as the Miami Fusion did in 2002 when owner Ken Horowitz pulled the plug on our MLS team. Why do I bring up the past? Because it’s relevant to how those of us in South Florida should evaluate what is happening now with Internacional Miami Club de Futbol.
Sure the team is not playing well and sits near the bottom of the table with 3 wins, 2 draws and 9 losses but that doesn’t tell the whole story. This has not been a normal season. The Coronavirus global pandemic has meant that there are no fans in most stadiums and in fact it meant that Inter Miami didn’t play a home game until their eight match. Inter Miami just signed the outstanding French central midfielder Blaise Matuidi a few weeks ago and their new star striker, Gonzalo Higuain, has only just played in his first match. These sound like excuses…and they are excuses…but they are valid excuses. But at the end of the day, many of us down here are just happy to have football in South Florida again. Yes it is very frustrating to watch this team in many games but I think most of us will give our team some time to sort this all out, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and worse in Florida than in all of Europe combined.
As for the actual football, it’s been disjointed and a rollercoaster of twisting ups and downs. The Inter Miami defense has been terrible. There is no way to sugar coat that. There has been some comical goals given up. Nealis, Reyes, Torres, Sweat…these players have all made laughable and amateurish mistakes in the back that have lead to goals conceded. The kind of errors that give MLS a bad name globally. You generally don’t see these type of errors in real football leagues, they are usually reserved for sunday kickarounds but yet professional defenders at Inter Miami make a few of them every match.
There are bright spots though. Mexican midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro has proven to be one of the better players in the league and can pick out a pass and control the midfield when he’s in form. Blaise Matuidi has helped calm the central midfield even though I believe the manager, Diego Alonso, is not using Matuidi correctly yet. I have no doubt that Higuain will score a lot of goals despite his nightmare penalty miss in his debut. The Scottish ex-Celtic winger, Lewis Morgan has several good moments every match and has been one of the most consistent threats in the attack. The ex-Stoke man, American Brek Shea, has been able to provide a threat from the opposite wing in recent weeks. Youngsters Matias Pellegrini, Julian Carranza and Robbie Robinson have all shown some level of promise for the future.
One avenue of hope lies in the bizarre structure of MLS itself. You only need to finish in one of the top 10 spots in the Eastern Conference to make the playoffs and it certainly wouldn’t take a miracle to finish in the top 10 out of 14 teams. Granted, they’ll need to improve to finish in one of those ten spots but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility with Higuain and Matuidi now in the weekly squad. Once in the playoffs they could catch fire and win the Cup, they certainly have enough talent to pose a threat if they could cut down on the mistakes.
But we’re going to give them a grace period anyway. This is their first year, it’s been a highly unusual season and I think you will find that most of us supporters trust David Beckham and the rest of the ownership group. They have shown great ambition on and off the field (two stadiums!) and Beckham has mostly delivered on his promises to us. He has brought a team here, he has gotten a stadium built, we even sold out all 18,000 seats for the first few matches that tickets were sold for….until the pandemic changed the course of the season. He has brought in two world cup finalists and several young prospects. He has created a buzz in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and he has a lot of good will in the bank with us.
We’ll revisit all of this in a couple years but for now there is still a lot of hope and support despite the several frustrating results thus far.