Who is Inter Miami in 2023? It's impossible to say seven games into a 34-match season: the Herons obviously are not the powerhouse that started the year with two 2-0 wins. Neither do I believe they're the team they've seemed while losing five straight since topping the Eastern Conference in early March.
The losing streak has exposed a variety of challenges, but the most glaring difference between its start and its decline is the absence of the Brazilian, Gregore de Magalhães da Silva, the Herons' captain and midfield quarterback. Gregore is out until at least September after suffering a Lisfranc foot injury against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. Inter Miami lost that match 1-0 on a Christopher McVey own-goal, and La Rosanegra haven't won since.
Who Inter Miami becomes over the next several months depends largely on Dixon Arroyo. The club announced Thursday that it has signed the Ecuadorian midfielder through the end of this season with an option for 2024. The former captain of C.S. Emelec in his home country, Arroyo is expected to start next to Jean Mota in the Herons' midfield.
Bryce Duke, who was playing out of position trying to take up some of Gregore's responsibilities, was traded earlier this month with Ariel Lassiter to CF Montreal for highly touted center back Kamal Miller and $1.3 million general allocation money (GAM). Victor Ulloa also has played in Gregore's role, without success. The job apparently is Arroyo's to lose.
Alex Windley, writing for The Heron Outlet, suggests Arroyo will be a capable replacement for Gregore. The newcomer has similar defensive skills, she says, and can be expected to add more to the attack.
“We’re happy to be able to reinforce our squad with an experienced, combative, defensive midfielder like Dixon. He’s a leader and an imposing figure in the middle of the field that we feel will help fill a need for us, especially as Gregore continues his recovery,” Chief Soccer Officer and Sporting Director Chris Henderson said of the club's latest acquisition.
I think the additions of Kamal Miller and Arroyo are positive moves. The Herons are adding quality pieces while still maneuvering for the financial flexibility to upgrade their attack -- you-know-who will be out of contract in a matter of weeks and, once he's announced his intentions, Miami (and Al-Hilal, and Barcelona, and probably several other so-far-anonymous clubs) can move forward with more certainty.
So, who will Inter Miami be in 2023? That still depends largely Lionel Messi. As long as there's any prayer that he'll choose South Florida over Al-Hilal's money or Barcelona's nostalgia, David Beckham and the Mas Brothers will keep the door open for him.
And our question will remain unanswered.