FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Inter Miami is officially on the way to the MLS bubble, and so too is imminent reinforcement Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Even though he cannot play in the upcoming competition.
Inter Miami departed for Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday morning to continue preparations for the start of the MLS is Back Tournament, and Gonzalez Pirez was among the group of players that hopped on a pair of buses for the trip north.
(UPDATE: Inter Miami officially announced the Gonzalez Pirez signing on Wednesday evening.)
Prior to the team’s departure, sporting director Paul McDonough spoke to the press and confirmed recent reports linking the expansion side with the Argentine centerback. McDonough added, however, that Gonzalez Pirez is unavailable to play for Inter Miami until after the tournament concluded because of MLS rules.
“We were so fast and aggressive with getting Leandro (signed), they just weren’t really ready for it,” said McDonough. “It’s okay. It is what it is. We’re going to go with the team we have to compete, but he’s with us and he can get integrated into the group. We’re happy that he’s with us.”
Inter Miami may be on the verge of officially signing Gonzalez Pirez and just inked a deal for versatile veteran Brek Shea, but McDonough stated the team is not done adding pieces just yet.
McDonough said Inter Miami is still in search of the forward and center midfielder the club has long been seeking — though signing two more players would likely result in a light roster reshuffle given that Inter Miami will have 29 players on the squad once Gonzalez Pirez is formally finalized. MLS’s roster size limit is 30.
“I think a No. 9 and No. 8 is ideally what we’ll look for,” said McDonough. “But if we end up with a 9 and another attacking player then that’s what we’ll do, too.”
The Inter Miami executive also stated that the hunt for a jersey sponsor is still ongoing, and added he is optimistic that a deal will get done in 2020.
“It’ll happen, I think, this year,” said McDonough. “We’re not there yet. We couldn’t get it done in time for the Disney tournament. We’re still working on it.”
As for the MLS is Back Tournament, McDonough said “everyone is traveling” to Central Florida when asked about the status of the one unidentified player that tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago.
McDonough also reiterated the stance that he wants Inter Miami to show growth in the competition after getting off to an 0-2 start prior to the pandemic pause.
“Yeah, we’re looking for progress,” said McDonough when asked if failing to get out of the group would be a disappointment for Inter Miami. “It’s been very difficult. We started an expansion team and we started playing and I think we had good performances. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but it’s really hard for an expansion now all of a sudden because you have to socially isolate so you can’t get any cohesiveness.
(Head coach Diego Alonso) and the staff were working hard at getting the guys put together. For me, I want progress, because I know we have a long season to go.”