Three Things to Know About Inter Miami Heading into 2021

Inter Miami has traded Dylan Nealis to Nashville SC. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Inter Miami has traded Dylan Nealis to Nashville SC. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Inter Miami begins their second season in MLS with cautious optimism.

Last year was less than ideal for Inter Miami.

The team finished 2020 with seven wins, three draws, and thirteen losses. For a team that wants to be one of the best in the league, ending the season in 10th place is unacceptable.

Fast forward to January 2021.

Diego Alonso has been ousted as head coach and with David Beckham having a more hands-on role at the club, the hiring of Phil Neville was inevitable.

Of course, Neville’s hiring wasn’t without controversy (mainly by MLS fans, writers, and English pundits questioning his managerial abilities) but listening to the players, it’s clear that the Englishman has brought a sense of optimism to South Florida.

As the days tick down towards their home opener against the LA Galaxy, here are three things to look out for in newly motivated Inter Miami.

Sylistic Change

In 2020, Miami’s style of play wasn’t recognizable.

There were times where the team played some semblance of ‘beautiful’ football, but for large parts of the season, the tactics were “have Lewis Morgan cross it and pray.”

That’s not to downplay the incredible year that Morgan had, but it was unfair to have him shoulder most of the offensive load when you share the field with players like Gonzalo Higuain and Rodolfo Pizarro.

Alonso’s tactics did not favor the players he had at his disposal.

In Neville’s case, he favors a more possession-based, short passing, style of soccer which will play to the strengths of Miami’s more creative players. He stressed the point that getting Pizarro more touches on the ball is imperative to Miami’s success in 2021:

Neville knows that getting the best of his most important players will be the key to Miami comfortably making the playoffs. Switching systems to get the most out of Pizarro and Higuain will be the biggest test for the Englishman this season.

Full Offseason for Higuain and Matuidi

Speaking of improvement, there’s quite a bit riding on the shoulders of Miami’s veteran players.

The ex-Juventus duo of Higuain and Blaise Matuidi have had a rough introduction to MLS.

With Matuidi looking tired and off the pace, and Higuain only scoring one goal in nine matches in 2020, the pair will need to improve if Miami wants to make a deep run in the playoffs.

One thing that is helping the pair get back on track was the extended offseason. When Matuidi and Higuain initially signed with the club, they came off a loaded Serie A season with Juventus. They had little to no time to physically prepare before getting thrown onto the pitch.

Both of them are also over 30 and aren’t getting any younger; the four-month offseason has certainly done them a world of good.

Higuain unveiled a new God of War-esque hairstyle and even looks more relaxed than he did during the season:

Matuidi also looks well-rested and more motivated than ever.

With Neville expecting big things from both of them, the elongated offseason was a blessing in disguise for Inter Miami.

New Mentality

Inter Miami has gone through a lot since its inception.

From a delayed stadium build to a rushed roster job and coaching hires, season two feels a bit more settled.

There’s a feeling of optimism and a real sense of togetherness with the players.

Last season, there were reports of a lack of communication between the players and coaching staff. That miscommunication was evident in the team’s 3-0 loss to Nashville SC where the backline gave up two goals that were outside the 18-yard box.

2021 should tell a different story.

Already, several players have spoken about how close the team has gotten compared to 2020.

20-year-old striker Julian Carranza echoed this sentiment; before the team took off to Sarasota late last week for some warm-up games, Carranza touched on how the team has grown together throughout preseason:

"“I think the team is well formed. There’s lots of good people who are willing to be present and help reach the goals of this project. There’s healthy competition on and off the field which is very important. “"

Having team chemistry is important to success. Without it, Miami’s second season could look very similar to their first. With this new mentality that Neville has brought into the club, the Herons should have the belief to improve upon 2020’s misfortunes.

The sky is the limit for this team, let’s see if they can turn it around.