David Beckham Inter Miami GFXGetty/MLS/Goal

Five games, five defeats: Beckham-owned Inter Miami's nightmare MLS debut

Virtually every expansion team in MLS history has faced some sort of growing pains, and for good reason.

Joining an established league as a brand new team, to put it simply, is very, very difficult. There are relationships to develop, lessons to learn and tough decisions to make.

It is virtually impossible to get it right on the first try, and most expansion teams must make a number of tweaks before finally finding their stride.

Inter Miami, though, is not like most teams.

Most teams are not owned by David Beckham, perhaps the most famous footballer on the planet.

Most teams are not linked with the likes of Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez, Edinson Cavani and Luka Modric before they even kick a ball.

Most teams do not shoulder international expectations before they even have a logo or name.

That is the challenge Inter Miami faces. This, after all, was Beckham's dream project: a club of his own in Miami, a cultural hub of international flavor that has the potential to become a true global hotspot in the world's game.

The aim was to turn Miami into American soccer's first true global powerhouse, one that raised the bar even higher than recent newcomers Los Angeles FC and Atlanta United have in recent years.

Miami, at least so far, has not lived up to those high hopes and lofty expectations. The team is yet to produce a truly memorable moment to cement their status as MLS' defiant newcomers while it is off to a nightmare start on the field.

After beginning the season with narrow losses to LAFC and D.C. United, Inter Miami were knocked straight out of the MLS is Back tournament with three more defeats.

With their winless run in Orlando, Inter Miami became the first expansion team to lose its first five games, while becoming the third (Chivas USA in 2005 and Montreal in 2012) to go winless through its opening five matches.

“We know that we’re in a difficult place right now," said captain Luis Robles,"but the only things that we can do is stick together and commit to the process, continue to believe in one another, work hard, demand more from each other and don’t get too fixated on the results. If we can do these things, then we’ll turn this around.”

It is safe to say that it isn not the start that Inter Miami expected. This is a club that seemingly has done everything right when it comes to assembling a team.

They brought in an executive, Paul McDonough, that helped Atlanta United go from expansion side to MLS Cup winner in just two seasons. They brought in a coach, Diego Alonso, with a history of winning in this region and a reputation for making his mark on big clubs. They brought in players, like Rodolfo Pizarro, Matias Pellegrini and Julian Carranza, with both upside and potential resale value to play alongside MLS veterans like Robles, Wil Trapp, Lee Nguyen and Roman Torres.

Alonso Miami 2020Xavier Dussaq

So what went wrong? Are things as bad as that 0-5 record indicates? 

The answer to that first question is a tricky one. So far, Pizarro, Pellegrini and Carranza have struggled to live up to expectations as Inter Miami's attack has struggled to truly connect. Trapp and Victor Ulloa have often been overrun in the midfield while goalkeeper Robles has let in a few goals that would have never found the back of the net during his time as a New York Red Bull.

In some ways, the club has also been plain unlucky, with moments such as a freak injury for defender Andres Reyes against Orlando in their opener derailing any positive momentum.

In reality, it has been a little bit of everything, as the club has been found lacking in all facets at one point or another.

Fortunately for Inter Miami, things are not as bad as they seem. This is not a team that has looked off the pace or overmatched in any of their games so far. In fact, all five of Inter Miami's losses have been one-goal defeats, with three of those losses including a red card for the first-year side.

Having faced legitimate playoff teams in LAFC, NYCFC and the Philadelphia Union as part of this five-game stretch, Inter Miami has looked like a team that does belong, even if the results have not shown it.

“Obviously we have this feeling of frustration, but nobody's going to convince me we're a bad team," said defender Nicolas Figal. "If you look at the games, they've all been decided by small margins, we've never been beaten badly. But we always lacked something. I hope that when the season resumes, we will be able to provide that final detail that we might have been missing this tournament."

"In these five games, football has been unfair,” added Alonso. “We have less than we deserve."

Diego Alonso Quote GFXGoal

By and large, they have been competitive, but there is a big gap between competitive and victorious. In Orlando, Miami have seen several flaws exposed. The good news is they already have an answer to several key questions in-house. 

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, formerly a rock-solid defender with Atlanta United, was unavailable for this tournament after signing just days before kickoff. The Argentine will step right into the club's defense and reclaim his place as one of the league's top defenders.

Striker Robbie Robinson, the club's first-round pick at the MLS Draft, was one of the bright spots of the club's first two matches back in the spring. In fact, that 21-year-old was so solid against LAFC that his first impression caused many to wonder if the club would be better off pursuing a big-name midfielder instead of a star striker such as Cavani or Suarez.

He too was out for the MLS is Back tournament, leaving the club without a player that quickly established himself as a potential starter up top.

But the introduction of Gonzalez Pirez and the return of  Robinson aren not what this team truly needs right now. The club's winless run in Orlando has only further highlighted its need for that megastar signing that was promised when Beckham kickstarted the road towards this inaugural season.

This was a team that was lacking "it", whatever "it" is. This was a team that was lacking someone that can, quite simply, win them the match in an instant. Right now, there is just something missing.

Lionel Messi Inter Miami MLSGetty/Goal

From the moment this team was announced, Miami was linked with some of the world's biggest and best. There were rumors that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi could play there someday . Neymar jokingly - or perhaps seriously - told Beckham that he wants to sign in the coming years . Antoine Griezmann has said he would love to play for the club someday

While those big names remain dream signings, the club had positioned itself to sign a star this summer. Miami had been linked with player that would almost certainly dominate in MLS. The club was waiting for the right time and the right star to become available and, when that happened, the plan was to make a splash with a big-time signing. 

The big issue? That signing may not come, at least not for a little while. Through no fault of Miami's, the market for big-money arrivals is vastly different than it was when the club decided to save its final Designated Player slot for the summer.

At the time, the club expected to take advantage of a busy summer market with a superstar splash. Unfortunately, no amount of planning could have prepared them for a world hit with the coronavirus, and a transfer market that is now reacting to that new-normal.

So that leaves Miami in a bind. This is a club that has shown that it is willing to wait for the right move, but that move may not come in time to help them contend in it first year.

As a result, this debut season that was filled with lofty expectations could become a bit of an experimental year, one more about soul-searching than trophy-winning. 

"Sometimes the road is long and [you] need to take a breather," Beckham wrote on Instagram recently. "Manchester United, Real Madrid, La Liga and the Premiership wasn't built in a day.

"Teams players and clubs need time to flourish, but when they do all the hard times seem so distant. It's important to take time to reflect on what we have achieved so far. I'm proud of my team, our club and the amazing fans that we have. Patience is a virtue."

Inter Miami will need to embrace that virtue. Expansion seasons, by and large, are about trial and error. For every first-year team, the end goal is to assess what you have, what you do not have and what you need to go out and get. 

Right now, Inter Miami have a lot more than their record indicates, but they are still missing that final piece or two that truly connects it all.

When and if they get it, fans will get a better look at something closer to Beckham's vision.