Inter Miami sporting director Chris Henderson has been involved in Major League Soccer for 27 years, since his playing days in 1996, but never had he experienced a season quite like this one.
In the span of eight weeks over the summer, Inter Miami fired coach Phil Neville, hired coach Tata Martino, signed Argentine icon Lionel Messi and his former FC Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, signed three rising South American talents, won the inaugural Leagues Cup and reached the final of the U.S. Open Cup.
Although the team ran out of gas and failed to reach the MLS playoffs, Henderson felt there was plenty to celebrate.
“We have seen what this team is capable of when we’re on all cylinders and everyone is out there,” he said Monday. “We had some beautiful football, controlling games. But we want more. We will improve this roster for 2024. We will work tirelessly to evaluate the changes that need to be made.”
Henderson, who is in negotiations to renew his contract with the club, was reluctant to mention any player prospects by name.
Asked about rumors that the team would acquire Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez, another former Barcelona teammate of Messi’s, Henderson said: “He’s currently with Gremio, so we don’t want to comment on a player who is not on our roster. He is a player who has always been linked with our team and it’s great to have great players around the world connected with Inter Miami and wanting to come here.”
Henderson added that the age distribution of the current roster is heavy with youth and players in their mid-30s, so they are looking for players “in their mid-20s who have league experience” to balance things out.
He singled out goalkeeper Drake Callender for having “a phenomenal year” and said the club is “super pleased” with him and expects him to continue being a leader on the squad.
One player who might return to the roster is center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who was on loan with Argentine club River Plate. River has the option to buy Gonzalez Pirez’s contract, but he could be back with Miami next season as the team could use another seasoned defender and “LGP”, as he is known, played for Martino on Atlanta United’s MLS Cup championship team.
Preseason training begins Jan. 10. Henderson said the club will spend part of its preseason in market and part on an overseas tour. Ideally, the team would play four to six preseason games before the MLS season begins in late-February. A home friendly against Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s and Martino’s hometown club, is in the works.
By winning Leagues Cup, the club qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League, which will make the calendar even more crowded next season with U.S. Open Cup, and some players committed to World Cup qualifiers and Copa America, which will be hosted in the United States next summer.
“There’s a lot of discussion at the league level about how we can alleviate some of these international windows and that congestion of the schedule,” Henderson said. “There just aren’t enough game days to sort it out.”