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After an offseason tour that saw them trekking around the globe, the regular season kicks off for Inter Miami on Feb. 21 with a home match against Real Salt Lake. It is a match that should feature Luis Suarez's first competitive game for the Herons as he joins forces with Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets

The former Barcelona men took the league by storm last season leading the Herons to their first trophy by winning the Leagues Cup but there was a feeling of what could've been as they lost in the U.S. Open Cup final that Messi and Alba missed due to injury before also missing the MLS Cup Playoffs by the end of the season. Entering their first season with the quintet on the roster, expectations are sky high as even with adding Concacaf Champions Cup into the mix the Herons are expected to win every competition.

Taking part in at least three competitions between the league, Leagues Cup, and Champions Cup, the fate of the U.S. Open Cup is unknown but it would just add more matches to what is a thin roster and it's one that could get thinner to comply with the MLS salary cap. According to The Athletic, players such as Gregore, Jean Mota, DeAndre Yedlin, Robert Taylor, and Sergii Kryvstov are all available for General Allocation Money which is needed before the roster compliance deadline on Feb. 20. 

With larger leagues' transfer windows already closed, Miami are running out of destinations but something will need to be done especially with an $8 million deal for Argentine midfielder Federico Redondo on the verge of completion.

Taking those issues into account, let's look at the official changes to the roster so far to see if Miami are set up to begin their season.


Players in: Tyler Hall, Israel Boatwright, Nicolas Freire

Players out: Christopher McVey, Kamal Miller, Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez

Erm, This is a list that could look much worse if either of Kryvstov or Yedlin departs ahead of the season. Miami's defense was already a massive weakness and it has gotten worse with the departure of Kamal Miller who will reunite with Phil Neville in Portland. "Kamal Miller time", is one of the best and worst parts of a Miami game. Sometimes it involves an impressive tackle to make up for a mistake, other times it involves dribbling too far into midfield and being dispossessed, but without his mobility and progressive passing, more pressure is put on Busquets and the other defenders.

Miller keeps the ball moving forward for the Herons and is vital to their movement. TruMedia

Nicolas Freire has joined on loan from Pumas in Liga MX, adding another Argentine to the side. Freire has experience that can help the team but he's not as mobile as Miller, leaving less room for error when playing in a back three or back four. At times during preseason, Yedlin and Noah Allen have come into the back three to add some pace but when they aren't natural center backs, it only adds more weaknesses to Miami's defense. A big step forward will be needed from Tomas Aviles but the Herons may even need to go without him if he's called into Argentina's Olympic squad during the summer. If there is one unit that will be Miami's undoing this season, it's the defense but they're not alone in having concerns.


Players in: Julian Gressel

Players out: Victor Ulloa, Dixon Arroyo

Technically, Julian Gressel can play a similar role to Taylor, sliding in as a wing-back, winger or central midfielder while also offering a set play threat so it does make sense why despite Taylor's large role in helping Miami win the Leagues Cup, he could end up on another team by the time that the season begins. Benjamin Cremaschi and Facundo Farias both picked up injuries ahead of the season, making an already thin unit thinner. Homegrown midfielder David Ruiz will be called upon a lot but the defensive shield that Dixon Arroyo brought will be missed.

A lot will be asked of Busquets and Diego Gomez and if Redondo joins from Argentinos Juniors, expectations will also be quite high for him. It's not that Redondo can't meet them as the defensive midfielder has been looked at by clubs such as AC Milan but if he went to those clubs, he would have a slower ramp-up to things. In MLS there is no such luxury as while your first XI is important, trophies are won by players 12-18. Without a bench to rotate while playing two games per week for the entire season with intense travel expectations, Miami will only end up limping to the finish line yet again.


Players in: Luis Suarez

Players out: Josef Martinez, Jake LaCava, Nicolas Stefanelli

Losing Josef Martinez on the surface may seem large but by the end of the season, his legs did seem as if he lost a step as he scored one goal in his last six appearances for the Herons. Martinez has been a transcendent figure within MLS but that's due to netting 111 goals in 158  appearances with Atlanta United. While with Miami, Martinez was more in line with the rest of his career only scoring 12 goals in 40 appearances. This feat was slightly bettered by a younger Leonardo Campana who has netted 23 goals in 65 appearances for the Herons. Only 23 and with room to grow, it makes sense that Campana was picked over Martinez to be a key backup and squad player but that's not the story of this forward line.

Everything at Miami comes down to two players. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. How many minutes will they play? Will Suarez feature on turf? These are key questions that could determine Miami's fate. Without Messi, Miami was a ship without a rudder just going in circles last season. With Farias out of the attack due to injury, Messi's key replacement is also unavailable, putting more pressure on Suarez. 

The Uruguayan was excellent at Gremio scoring 26 goals and assisting 17 more in all competitions but he also logged close to 5,000 minutes last season. Now 37, it remains to be seen if he can keep up that level of production. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's at age 37 season with the LA Galaxy scored 30 goals and assisted seven more but Zlatan also is unique. If Messi and Suarez don't combine for 40 goals between themselves, it's hard to see how Miami win the Eastern Conference which would be needed to get a comfortable road to MLS Cup. Adding in prioritization of all the competitions that they're taking part in, it may be best to put all their eggs in the first competition that they can win which is Concacaf Champions Cup, similar to Leagues Cup last season. 

Did the Herons improve?

To answer this question depends on what point you're looking at. This team is better than the one that started last season but it's hard to say that it's better than the one that won Leagues Cup. Both rosters are flawed but the Inter Miami that won the Leagues Cup felt like there was a plan post Messi while this team is trying to maximize a very narrow window while not adjusting to the demands of the league.

Miami will be fun for better or worse but in a lot of ways this team feels like a more extreme version of the LA Galaxy. When they're on, the Herons will buzz a team for five goals but then they'll ship in five goals themselves the next match while doing everything in between. The roster deadline is also a concern as if Miami can't move players out, what's next? Guess we'll have to see what the week brings.