LIFT OFF FOR INTER MIAMI AND THEIR CELEBRATED LEADER

 

The Inter Miami squad's been assembled at a rapid speed and have spent two months together

STEVE BRENNER IN LA

And so, finally, David Beckham’s moment has arrived.

Here in the City of Angels, the former England captain will be in a private version of footballing heaven as his Inter Miami Major League Soccer expansion team roll out for their first competitive match.

Last season’s high-fliers Los Angeles FC are the opponents – and it could be a chastening afternoon for the MLS new-boys.

Beckham won’t care though.

This has been a serious labour of love for the former Manchester United midfielder who has seen six years pass since officially announcing he would exercise an agreement written into the contract signed in 2007 following his move from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy that, for just $25million (£19.5m), an MLS franchise could be his.

The project was almost doomed to failure with the inability to find a suitable stadium site almost killing the dream before it began.

Thankfully, with the introduction into the ownership group of local construction magnates the Mas brothers, all the political red-tape has been navigated. Well, for now at least.

The plans to move into a $1bn business park and sports complex remain in flux but are top of that particular agenda.

On Sunday night, however, Beckham can actually concentrate on the real reason he became involved in all of this.

To see a team of his own begin to make strides in MLS. To actually play football.

But, what can Leytonstone’s finest expect?

‘We are just thrilled to be at this point,’ said Beckham earlier in the week, clearly enthused at the prospect of battles on the pitch, rather than the courtroom, to help occupy his time.

The first test, however, is seriously daunting.

Waiting at the Banc of California stadium on Sunday night will be a goal-hungry Los Angeles FC, one of the most dangerous teams of the last campaign who won the Supporters Shield – given to the best record in the normal season – before falling short in the play-off’s.

Bob Bradley, the former US coach, will want his men to start the 25th season of MLS with a bang.

Carlos Vela, formerly of Arsenal, scored 34 goals last year and was named the League’s top player.

For Miami, with just two friendlies and some behind-closed-doors matches to use as preparation, this is a step into the unknown.

Their manager, Uruguayan Diego Alonso, arrives with pedigree following impressive stints with Pacucha and Monterrey in Mexico where a domestic title and two CONCACAF Champions League crowns were won, becoming the first man to win the competition with two different teams in the process.

Yet he’s been in South Florida for less than two months. A mere 62 days, to be exact.

A squad – just like their revamped Lockhart Stadium site in Fort Lauderdale – is still being built with all the pieces yet to fall into place.

The superstar statement signing hasn’t arrived and probably won’t do so until the summer.

For now, excitable Inter Miami fans who have been eagerly waiting for this moment are pinning their hopes on Mexican international midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro.

The 26 year-old, who played for Alonso in Monterrey before his sacking in September 2019, has created a real buzz locally and is key.

Pizarro is a classy playmaker but like many of his new friends, has only been working with the squad for a short time – his $12m (£9.4m) move was announced on February 16 – and will surely need time to gel.

Alonso has, crucially, experienced MLS players in place like goalkeeper and captain Luis Robles and US international Will Trapp, and his high-pressing mantra should be fun to watch.

Yet only time will tell as to how effective it will be while everyone finds their feet.

The Uruguayan is an adept tactician who isn’t afraid to change when the going gets tough although a harder test first-up would be hard to imagine.

‘It’s a tall order in the sense of being the first game for an expansion team going against the Supporters Shield winners but that’s the challenge you want as a competitor, ‘ said Trapp when asked about LAFC.

‘It’s about not shying away from the big moments being brave and taking the lessons we have learned in training – intensity, competing, involving each other with the ball. Passing it and connecting.

‘These are the games that you want, the litmus tests early in the season to see if the work is paying dividends. ‘

By the time the highly anticipated home opener against LA Galaxy on March 14 rolls around, the squad and stadium site should both be in lockstep.

Starting up a new franchise is never easy but Beckham’s plans are being carried out at breakneck speed. The stadium complex which also houses a great looking training academy has been constructed in just 10 months.

Trapp maintains no-one is overawed with the challenge ahead although come kick-off time here, some could be changing their tune.

‘You are always building styles of play and philosophies, building connections and relationships with the group and I think we have done a good job with that, ‘ he said.

‘It’s always a process. Those things can take time but you try and make things happen quicker by being with each other all of the time. ‘

Beckham will be praying he’s right.

Diego Alonso is head coach having enjoyed success in Mexico with Monterrey and Pacucha

Diego Alonso is head coach having enjoyed success in Mexico with Monterrey and Pacucha

The club have already played friendly matches and they are ready to go for their first season

The club have already played friendly matches and they are ready to go for their first season

Their manager, Uruguayan Diego Alonso, arrives with pedigree following impressive stints with Pacucha and Monterrey in Mexico where a domestic title and two CONCACAF Champions League crowns were won, becoming the first man to win the competition with two different teams in the process.

Yet he’s been in South Florida for less than two months. A mere 62 days, to be exact.

A squad – just like their revamped Lockhart Stadium site in Fort Lauderdale – is still being built with all the pieces yet to fall into place.

The superstar statement signing hasn’t arrived and probably won’t do so until the summer.

For now, excitable Inter Miami fans who have been eagerly waiting for this moment are pinning their hopes on Mexican international midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro.

Miami have not announced a big signing but have acquired exciting midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro

Miami have not announced a big signing but have acquired exciting midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro

The 26 year-old, who played for Alonso in Monterrey before his sacking in September 2019, has created a real buzz locally and is key.

Pizarro is a classy playmaker but like many of his new friends, has only been working with the squad for a short time – his $12m (£9.4m) move was announced on February 16 – and will surely need time to gel.

Alonso has, crucially, experienced MLS players in place like goalkeeper and captain Luis Robles and US international Will Trapp, and his high-pressing mantra should be fun to watch.

Yet only time will tell as to how effective it will be while everyone finds their feet.

Alonso has experienced MLS players to count on like 35-year-old goalkeeper Luis Robles

Alonso has experienced MLS players to count on like 35-year-old goalkeeper Luis Robles

The American has been named the team's captain for their inaugural season in the MLS

The American has been named the team’s captain for their inaugural season in the MLS

The Uruguayan is an adept tactician who isn’t afraid to change when the going gets tough although a harder test first-up would be hard to imagine.

‘It’s a tall order in the sense of being the first game for an expansion team going against the Supporters Shield winners but that’s the challenge you want as a competitor, ‘ said Trapp when asked about LAFC.

‘It’s about not shying away from the big moments being brave and taking the lessons we have learned in training – intensity, competing, involving each other with the ball. Passing it and connecting.

‘These are the games that you want, the litmus tests early in the season to see if the work is paying dividends. ‘

The franchise will start life in Fort Lauderdale in a ramshackle venue while the stadium is built

The franchise will start life in Fort Lauderdale in a ramshackle venue while the stadium is built

The stadium is far from complete but will house 18,000 fans as the club plans for the future

The stadium is far from complete but will house 18,000 fans as the club plans for the future

By the time the highly anticipated home opener against LA Galaxy on March 14 rolls around, the squad and stadium site should both be in lockstep.

Starting up a new franchise is never easy but Beckham’s plans are being carried out at breakneck speed. The stadium complex which also houses a great looking training academy has been constructed in just 10 months.

Trapp maintains no-one is overawed with the challenge ahead although come kick-off time here, some could be changing their tune.

‘You are always building styles of play and philosophies, building connections and relationships with the group and I think we have done a good job with that, ‘ he said.

‘It’s always a process. Those things can take time but you try and make things happen quicker by being with each other all of the time. ‘

Beckham will be praying he’s right.

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David Beckham’s MLS dream is about to become a reality as Inter Miami prepare to make their bow

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