Chris Henderson discusses Inter Miami's offseason approach after disappointing 2021
The Inter Miami sporting director recapped the team's poor season and previewed what is next in 2022
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Winter is coming, and so too are significant changes to Inter Miami.
At least that is the plan.
Chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson held the team’s end-of-year press conference on Tuesday, and in it he detailed a number of things the South Florida side will look to do this offseason to improve a squad that disappointingly finished in 11th place and without a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in 2021.
Injecting the roster with some more youth seems to be priority No. 1.
“This is a young league. We need energy,” said Henderson at Drv Pnk Stadium. “You need to be able to move around the field, and I think it is proven and teams like New England have shown their counterattacking ability, their speed, their athleticism has gotten them some good results.”
That desired youth movement is one of the reasons why head coach Phil Neville is set to return in 2022. Despite guiding Inter Miami to a worse finish this season than the team had in 2020 under previous manager Diego Alonso, Neville will be back on the sideline next year.
Bringing the Englishman back will not only stress continuity after 2020’s leadership overhaul, but it will allow him to further develop some of the prospects in the pipeline while continuing to unfold the team’s longer-term project.
“Phil is fantastic with young players and I think with what we are dealing with in the next two years that is going to be very important,” said Henderson. “I think Phil is a very good coach and I think this will give us the opportunity moving forward together to have our fingerprints on this roster, which I really do not feel like it is there yet but it is coming.
“We are working on building a team of players who are committed to our values and the way that Phil wants to play, his staff wants to play, and what we want at this club.”
Of course, you cannot talk about Inter Miami and 2022 without mentioning the financial sanctions that will come into effect for the team next year as a result of Major League Soccer’s findings into the Blaise Matuidi signing. Henderson will be tasked with helping the Herons maneuver through those monetary limitations, and he stated on Tuesday there are different ways to “minimize” them.
Evaluating any and all trade proposals is among those methods, with seemingly no player being deemed untouchable given the situation Inter Miami finds itself in.
“We will listen to every offer,” said Henderson. “We will evaluate how maybe the player that would come how they will connect with other players we have. We have to be able to build a team that has players that complement each other. We will look at opportunities to improve our team, we will look at opportunities to support our salary cap and how we are going to move forward.
“Young players is one, loans are another possibility, and it may be that it is about trust and trust in what we are building and where we are going because maybe the next player that comes in becomes a fan favorite for everyone here as well.”
While Henderson mostly kept his cards close to the vest in terms of specific details for the offseason, he did state that building “a good spine of the team is important.” He mentioned the striker, midfielder, and central defender positions by name, but emphasized wanting to add players who were disciplined and not card-prone, could complement the other pieces in the squad, and provided a bit more technical skill. Especially in the center of the park.
“Midfield is an important position for us that we will look to bolster,” said Henderson. “… It is a focus of what we will look at both internally and externally. Our scouts are out looking. Mark Prizant is traveling, I will travel to South America, and look at some players.”
“Having players who want the ball under pressure and being able to keep the ball a little better,” Henderson added later. “I think that may be some of the focus is getting players who can help us keep the ball a little bit more and working on that every day. That keeps you in games. If you have the ball, you defend less.”
As for Designated Players Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro, and Matuidi, Henderson simply said all three were under contract for 2022. Whether they are moved out or not is unclear, but Henderson made it clear he is not ruling anything out this winter as he tries to revamp a team in need of plenty of improvements.
“Some of those negotiations are happening, some trade talks are happening,” said Henderson. “We have to see how those play out and how we fill those positions.”