Since the moment Inter Miami was announced, links to big names have been constant, and it was only natural. When you have David Beckham as the face of the program, talk like that seems to follow.
The coaching search was no exception. Links to managers like Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti may have been a pipe dream, but Miami's cultural clout was enough to make all of it seem somewhat plausible. Patrick Vieira and Marcelo Gallardo were frequently linked as candidates, giving plenty of reason for optimism even as the search dragged on significantly longer than many expected it to.
In the end, Inter Miami didn't land on the biggest name. The club didn't bring in a global megastar with famous soundbites or infamous nicknames. The club didn't turn to one of the names mentioned above, for whatever reason. Instead, the club brought in a coach that seems like a more reasonable fit with a resume to match any manager in MLS today.
On Monday, Inter Miami finally confirmed the hiring of Diego Alonso, making the Uruguayan boss the first manager in club history. Alonso's name isn't as big as a Mourinho or an Ancelotti, but the former Pachuca and Monterrey boss brings something that those two don't: a complete understanding of exactly what he's getting into.
Part of that will be expectations, as there will be plenty of them for a variety of reasons. Some of them are normal. A team in Miami will always have an accelerated timeline, as will a team with Beckham in charge. But Alonso will also be burdened by the names mentioned above and the extended process that it took to get him here. Inter Miami's first preseason begins in less than a month, and what could have been a marathon building process has now turned into a spring.
Sporting Director Paul McDonough won't care too much about all that. He's just happy to have gotten his guy.
“Every time there’s an expansion club, there’s a buzz; but the fact that this is Miami and David Beckham certainly ramped it up a little bit,” McDonough told the Miami Herald. “The most important thing for us is to stay with our plan. We can’t get caught up in the outside noise because here, there are a lot of people who understand the game, and with that everyone has an opinion, which is good. But you can’t get sidetracked when the noise or criticisms come about the timing or what you’re trying to do.”
He added: “I’ve been very clear from the beginning that the coach wasn’t going to build this team. We the club would build this team. We found the right man to lead the group of players we’re assembling.”
Alonso is that leader, and he's a leader that has proven himself as one of the top managers in North America. His times at Pachuca and Monterrey were filled with the type of successes that Miami will hope to emulate and trophies they'll hope to compete for. At Pachuca, he won the Clausura in 2016 before claiming the CONCACAF Champions League the next year. At Monterrey, he became the first manager to win the CCL with a second club by topping Tigres in April. The Clausura campaign didn't start as well for Alonso's Monterrey, prompting his departure, but that doesn't take away the fact that he has gone toe-to-toe with North America's best and come out on top on multiple occasions.
Along the way, his teams have taken down the best MLS has to offer, and usually done so in style. There was the 3-1 quarterfinal triumph over Atlanta United earlier this year and the 10-2 smashing over Sporting KC in semifinals. Those results speak volumes, as has his work with younger players during his time at Pachuca.
“He’s competed against MLS teams in the CONCACAF Champions League, and I paid close attention when his team was beating Atlanta United,” McDonough said. “All the MLS teams aspire to win that, and we just signed a guy who has won it twice with two different clubs."
With the coach in place, Miami now faces the task of filling out a competitive roster. To date, the club has formed a backbone, signing MLS veterans like Roman Torres, Juan Agudelo, Luis Robles and Lee Nguyen in recent weeks. But 19-year-old Matias Pellegrini is still the team's lone Designated Player, and that is certain to change over the next few weeks. Teams like Los Angeles FC and Atlanta United have proven how important it is to have a strong core of domestic, MLS-knowledgable veterans, but teams that truly hope to compete among the elite can only go so far as their DPs can carry them.
In that way, Inter Miami is a bit behind schedule with just over two months until their first MLS match. The January transfer window will be make-or-break for this first-year club as they look to give Alonso the pieces to compete from Day 1.
“It’s an ambitious and winning project,” Alonso told the AP. “That’s what I’m all about.”
He added: “I’m very excited. I know this league very well. I know the challenge.”
Taking charge of Inter Miami will be a challenge, for sure. There's still a lot of work to be done when it comes to constructing a team that can compete in MLS. But, with Alonso in charge, the club has taken a step towards meeting that challenge head-on.