Miami, Fla. (Tuesday, March 26, 2019) – Kenneth Russo
We received more insight into how Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami is thinking about filling out its roster in advance of its inaugural season in 2020, by way of recent interviews. (1) see link below
In charge of building Miami is Sporting Director Paul McDonough, who was interviewed for MLSSoccer.com and offered some insight. Prior to being named as Miami’s Sporting Director, Paul, a Massachusetts native, was instrumental in building Atlanta United’s MLS Cup Championship team, and prior to that, also developed the roster for Orlando City Soccer Club for heir first its season in 2015. He has also coached on a university level including Assistant Coach positions at the University of Connecticut, University of South Carolina, Wake Forest University, and
the University of South Carolina-Spartanburg. At UConn he assisted with all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the Husky soccer program, with an emphasis on the recruiting portion. He has been a player representative for several years.
Expertise Building Expansion Clubs:
If soccer had an official designation of “expert”, McDonough could realistically carry that label; in fact it’s safe to say he has more experience building MLS expansion teams than anyone. The results also make for a compelling case.
Orlando City SC 2014-2015
In 2014, during Orlando City’s final USL season, the club named Adrian Heath its head coach and hired Paul McDonough to be general manager. Paul outlined a three-year plan to becoming an MLS Cup contender. He was also able to sign Brazilian star Kaká, who was a friend of owner Flávio Augusto da Silva and CEO Alex Leitão. Paul focused on bringing in young talent to fill out the roster. U.S. youth internationals Tommy Redding and Tyler Turner were signed and played with the first team in 2014. Additionally, Portuguese youth international Rafael Ramos was signed. Paul obtained Cyle Larin in the MLS SuperDraft. Kaká was the top paid player that season, and the other two available Designated Player slots went to a pair of young internationals — Carlos Rivas, a speedy striker from Colombia, and Bryan Rochez, a strong striker from Honduras. Orlando City was an in-form side late in the season and finished just one position in the table and five points out of the playoffs with a 12-14-8 record, still the club’s best-ever mark in MLS. When the club instituted a shake up of the front office after the season ended, Paul found himself demoted. He thereafter left the club.
Atlanta United FC 2016-2018
It took little time for Atlanta United FC to hire Paul, where he worked with club President Darren Eales (Atlanta United Front Office Profiles- Darren Eales), the Vice President of Soccer Operations, Carlos Bocanegra, (Atlanta United Front Office, Carlos Bocanegra) (Bocanegra is now the Vice President and Technical Director) and head coach Tata Martino to turn the expansion team into a powerhouse.
The team-building plan Paul unveiled in Orlando also worked in Atlanta. With ownership under Arthur Blank committed to spending money, he built a strong, young team that could compete early. He used a similar pattern of roster-building, signing a primary Designated Player and a pair of younger Designated Players. The DP was 23-year-old Venezuelan Josef Martinez who was transferred from Torino of Serie A, as well as young DPs Miguel Almirón and Héctor Villalba. The expansion side reached the playoffs. It it was Paul’s knowledge of how to maximize the MLS roster rules and roster building mechanisms that brought Atlanta to the summit, allowing them to pair Almirón, Martinez and Villalba with players like veterans Michael Parkhurst, Brad Guzan and Jeff Larentowicz, plus Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Julian Gressel, Carlos Carmona, Darlington Nagbe and Ezequiel Barco. That team finished the 2017 MLS season tied for fifth all-time in goals scored in a single-season (70), and fourth all-time in goal differential (+30). The trio of Designated Players in Martinez, Almirón and Villalba combined to score 41 goals – a higher total than five other MLS teams in 2017.
Taking those experiences into account, here are some of Paul’s thoughts as to the structure of Inter Miami, its style of play and the type of players he is looking at.
Miami will likely resemble more Atlanta than Orlando in terms of spending. Indeed, within MLS at the present time there seems to be two camps of owner/investors; those who want to push for more spending and those who would prefer to keep a tight lid on spending. Miami will be a club not afraid to splash the cash for the right players.
In an interview Monday, March 25, 2019 with Magic City Soccer, Managing Partner Jorge Mas had this to say:
With his experience in Orlando and Atlanta to draw on, McDonough knows how to properly build a successful expansion team. Make no mistake, this will be a high pressure situation, and Miami sports fans are not known for their patience. However, the resources are there, and the owners feel he is exactly the man who can make it all come together.
McDonough says he will use all three Designated Player (“DP’s”) spots in Miami’s first season in the league, with two of those players on the books by the time the 2020 campaign begins. A third could be on the roster in time for opening day, though McDonough said that third DP could also join over the summer. To some degree it depends on which DP the club goes for first. Each DP signing impacts what player the club might pursue for the second DP, and same for the third.
The club is actively putting the “Internacional” in Miami’s name to good use. Engaging in a worldwide scouting effort, McDonough, technical director Kurt Schmid, a longtime scout with Seattle and the LA Galaxy, and Director of Soccer Operations Niki Budalic, formerly Orlando City’s GM, have attended games on several continents in recent weeks. They’re not currently involved in negotiations with any players, but McDonough said they are having “informal discussions” regarding several. We should expect the first signings over the summer and into fall. Meanwhile, the Inter Miami CF Academy is expected to launch in the summer.
Miami being the attraction that it is, the rumour mill is in full swing about which players will arrive. In all cases, the names are big ones. Inter Miami is prepared to pay large transfer fees or salaries on the right players.
McDonough didn’t say whether he is looking at a big name like he had in Orlando City with Kaká, or gather several young talented players like he did in Atlanta. He did say that if they go for a big star, then that requires at least another player who has the ability to complement the big star. Otherwise, the big star can become overburdened.
“In Atlanta, the ambition was known right out of the gate: We were going to try to be competitive from Day 1,” McDonough told MLSsoccer.com.
“We spent that way, that was the approach, to be very competitive in Year 1 but not go crazy so that we could keep the roster together and make a serious push in Year 2. And look, it worked out perfectly. And this in Miami, the ambition will be very much the same.”Paul McDonough, Inter Miami CF Sporting Director
“I think the thing with Atlanta, the young DPs all were similar age and I think that was really, really important,” he said. “Targeted Allocation Money allowed us to build more of a balanced team when you had Chris McCann, Carlos Carmona, Leandro, Guzan and Parkhurst as our main guys, so the experiences and the balance in age was better for Atlanta. Whereas in Orlando, you had Kaká and a bunch of young kids we were trying to build around. And in all honesty, it probably just wasn’t fair to Kaká. You look back on it and that’s my concern, if I brought one big DP in, I would need to bring some guys in that had experiences that mean they’re basically allowed to be in the same dressing room as that guy, that have the experiences of playing in big games at big clubs and things like that.”
Tactically, expect Miami to play “in an attractive, attacking style,” says McDonough, without elaborating on any particular formation.
The eventual manager will need to be able to function well in Miami’s international, multicultural atmosphere, as well as be adept at managing big personalities, who often carry a reputation for being difficult to manage. A great manager finds a way to get the most from his players. McDonough’s experience should help in this area too. “It’s super, super important that we get someone that can handle the pressure and the big personalities that potentially could be here,” he said.
“Look, this is really big challenge. Professional soccer in South Florida, it’s been a mess for quite a while,” he said. “I tell everyone, I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have to pick a direction and make decisions that’s best for the club and really what’s going to be best for soccer in South Florida. And they’re all kind of waiting to see if we deliver on what we say. I tell the guys, it’s just really, really important that whatever we say we’re going to do, we do well, and we follow through. We have to. We’re going to be the stewards of soccer in South Florida. We have to do this right.”
© 2020 Russo Law & Soccer
(1) Stejskal: | Read on MLSsoccer.com – How a former Orlando, Atlanta exec is shaping Inter Miami
(2) Magic City Soccer editors Abel Iraola and Matthew Bunch sit down with Inter Miami CF managing partner Jorge Mas to discuss Lockhart Stadium, Miami Freedom Park and much more: