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Paul McDonough steps down as Inter Miami sporting director

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (December 4, 2020) Add a new sporting director and a new head of commercial to Inter Miami’s Christmas list.

News broke a few days ago that sporting director and COO Paul McDonough will not return to the team following the disappointing inaugural season of the Fort Lauderdale-based MLS team. Inter Miami now have no one to oversee the offseason player movements, a task made more difficult while the pandemic still ravages the planet.

“Working alongside the Mas brothers to build upon the legacy of soccer in South Florida will be one of the highlights of my career,” McDonough said in a statement. “I am proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to the next chapter.”

The Athletic was the first publication to report on this development. According to that source technical director Kurt Schmid is also leaving the team.

McDonough’s departure follows a bizarre inaugural season for the South Florida team. While the Rosanegro qualified for an expanded post season MLS Cup Tournament, becoming in the process only the seventh Major League Soccer expansion team to do so in the league’s twenty-five year history, the season fell far short of preseason hype.

Inter Miami finished it’s first year with a 7-13-3 record (10th place in the 14-team Eastern Conference) and were eliminated in their first playoff game by fellow expansion team Nashville on Nov. 20. Inter Miami lost its first five regular-season games, setting a new record for futility by an MLS expansion team.

Since the news broke about McDonough’s apparent sacking, there has been a veil of silence from the team. No comments have been provided by David Beckham, club owner and president of soccer operations, or managing owner Jorge Mas.

The only acknowledgment from Inter Miami was a carefully-worded statement that read:

“On behalf of Inter Miami’s ownership group, staff and fans I would like to thank Paul for his invaluable contribution to the expansion of Inter Miami CF over the past two and a half years,” Mas said in a statement. “Under his leadership, Inter Miami has established a solid base to build upon, from the club’s infrastructure to its elite facilities. As the club’s first hire, Paul will always be a part of Inter Miami. I am grateful to him for the passion and dedication he brought to the organization.”

The team also said that McDonough will help the club with the front-office transition “over the coming weeks.”

McDonough joined Inter Miami as the club’s sporting director in August 2018. His achievements at Orlando City and Atlanta United have given him a reputation as an expert in establishing new MLS teams. He was senior vice president of soccer operations from January 2014 through January 2016 with Orlando City. He then joined Atlanta, where he was the vice president of soccer operations from January 2016 through August 2018. The Five Stripes made the postseason in its first year, 2017. The following season, Atlanta United took home the MLS Cup, which was played after McDonough had already taken on the Inter Miami position.

Although McDonough initially joined Inter Miami as sporting director, he ended up taking on the role as head of the business side of the team following the departure of Jurgen Mainka, a successful and well-liked executive with extensive experience in MLS and at Concacaf. Already known for working long hours, the joint role saw McDonough’s responsibilities expand from roster building to the construction of the team’s training centre and stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Inter Miami’s roster consisted of MLS veterans and young international players. One of the best players selected in the expansion draft, Lee Nguyen, saw little playing time and later in the year was transferred to the New England Revolution, where he had been a regular for years prior to joining Los Angeles FC.

The 2020 season was suspended for over four months, something which did not help Inter Miami’s players establish themselves as a team. It must be noted, however, that the suspension affected all teams. As the seaon ws restarted, Inter Miami brought in Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuaín and his brother Federico, but the product on the pitch was not good.

Another factor that contributed to the poor performance may have been the very late hiring of a head coach. Diego Alonso was officially hired as the team’s coach on Dec. 30, with only a short time before preseason camp. Inter Miami’s initial signings, Matías Pellegrini and Julián Caranza also underperformed. To McDonough’s credit though, Lewis Morgan was an unexpected bright spot.

McDonough’s departure and the eventual hiring of a new sporting director leave open the question of manager Diego Alonso’s tenure in Fort Lauderdale. His postseason interview created confusion, with the coach leaving thinking he had been sacked. While that turned out to be untrue, a new sporting director will likely play an important role in who is behind the bench next season. If it is indeed Alonso, Inter Miami will need to start the season strong.

By Ken Russo

While my background is in the legal industry, the skills acquired and fine-tuned in law practice are now applied to focus on the sport of football. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage on news and relevant issues in the game.

Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.