Inter Miami had a hole in the central midfield position that was as glaring as the one at striker. The expansion team just filled that midfield chasm with a World Cup winner and potential game-changer.
French national team midfielder Blaise Matuidi is on his way to South Florida after coming to terms with Inter Miami on Thursday morning. The 33-year-old Frenchman‘s arrival embodies the type of high-profile acquisition that Inter Miami has long talked about making, and more importantly gives the expansion club an upgrade in a part of the field that sorely needed a boost in quality after repeated subpar performance in the team’s winless first five games.
Never mind the fact that Matuidi is not occupying Inter Miami’s final Designated Player slot and is coming instead on a Targeted Allocation Money deal, at least to start. For Inter Miami this is a significant coup, and one that could help change the course of its inaugural season.
How will Matuidi’s arrival impact Inter Miami? Here is a closer look:
Anyone who is familiar with Matuidi knows how much presence he brings to the center of the park.
The veteran lefty is an energetic and physical player capable of both driving the ball forward into the attack himself and breaking things up on the other end with his strength and range. His ability to cover ground and outwork and overpower opponents will be a huge benefit to an Inter Miami midfield that had no real muscle or bite during these spread out first few games.
He is in a sense going to fill a similar role to that of Jermaine Jones (although miles better) that joined the New England Revolution as a midseason acquisition in 2014 and helped them reach the MLS Cup Final that year.
Matuidi is going to be Inter Miami’s powerful two-way midfielder, one that can influence a game in a number of ways and can occasionally score himself.
Improving those around him
To go back to the Jones comparison of 2014 when his arrival freed up the Revolution players around him, Matuidi’s presence and ability will do the same for Inter Miami. Particularly in terms of the possession game. Particularly for Wil Trapp.
It is no secret that Inter Miami has struggled mightily to keep possession and initiate attacking sequences that lead to chances for whoever is occupying the No. 9 spot. It’s why in this space it was stressed repeatedly during the MLS is Back Tournament that Inter Miami needed help in the center of the park.
To make things clear, however, Matuidi is not necessarily going to be the midfield link that helps connect the back line to the attack with a soft touch and clean passing. Matuidi is capable of moving the ball forward either on the dribble or through his passing, but that is not necessarily his forte.
Enter scene, Trapp. The American midfielder has been one of the more disappointing performers for Inter Miami through the first five matches, struggling on both the defensive and possession side. His issues are part of why Inter Miami has at least in two games thus far intentionally bypassed playing through the midfield.
Matuidi should allow Trapp to play to his strengths, though. Whereas before Trapp had to be very honed in on his defensive responsibilities — a part of his game that is not his strength — he will now be able to focus more on just collecting the ball and initiating sequences with his fairly clean touch. That has been his bread and butter in MLS, after all, and what has got him on the U.S. Men’s National Team scene.
Again, like Jones, Matuidi’s presence should free up teammates like Trapp to play more to their strengths. That should make more than a notable difference for the team, as it attempts to build out more in order to play the aesthetically-pleasing style that it has been selling and that will excite Miami fans.
Tactical and financial flexibility
Matuidi’s arrival can help Inter Miami in more than just the midfield department. His experience and versatility also make a potential stop-gap option in certain games at left back, an area that has also been very inconsistent for Inter Miami to this point.
Even so, it is the financial flexibility that he gives Inter Miami that is as notable as the tactical one. Matuidi coming in as a TAM player — at least for this year — allows Inter Miami the ability to address the attack.
The expansion side has made clear its desire to sign a striker or winger, and having that final Designated Player slot still available after Matuidi agreed to a deal that is favorable to the club is a massive plus. The challenge may still be difficult, but Inter Miami can still bring in a top or productive talent that can help the attack generate and finish more chances.
Sure, Inter Miami may have to move a piece in its loaded roster in order to sign a third DP, but that will be a much easier task than signing another difference-maker.