Top 6 Agility Drills for Soccer Development

Improving skills as a soccer player largely involves being able to take quick and decisive control over the ball. Coaches are often striving to improve their players’ confidence because the more confident they feel when they have the ball in their feet, the better they’ll be at getting around the opposition and knowing when to release the ball to another teammate. 

 

Speedy footwork and coordination go hand-in-hand when it comes to being a better soccer player. The more you work on these elements, the better you’ll feel about using your skills on the pitch.

 

Great agility ladder drills to bring out players’ potential are one of the best techniques that soccer players use to improve their skills. There are tons of agility ladder drills available which can make it difficult to know where to start. 

 

This post covers the top drills that you can start introducing to your players to boost their skills and confidence. 

 

Side Steps

 

Side steps are one of the most common types of agility ladder exercises that you’ve probably seen being performed. It involves you putting both of your feet in both rings before you move on.

 

However, the key with this exercise is to be standing sideways so that you’re moving up the ladder at a sideways angle. Be sure to focus on moving your arms and legs in sync as you move up. This is something that will help with your balance and overall coordination. 

 

Start by going up the ladder facing sideways before going back down it with your opposite foot leading instead. 

 

1-Step & 2 -Step

 

The one-step and two-step exercise is another one that you may have seen being performed. The one-step exercise is simple and involves putting one foot in a ring and changing between them as you move up the ladder. 

 

Be sure not to be taking large strides while doing this exercise. Instead, focus on being speedy and lifting your feet off the ground just enough to clear the ring. At the start, you may need to take things a little slow and make sure that you’re getting the technique right. You can increase the speed once you feel more confident about your coordination. 

The two-step exercise is performed in the same way as the one-step exercise, however, you put both feet in each ring before moving up the ladder. 

 

Jumping Jacks

 

Jumping jacks are excellent for improving your coordination, strength, and balance. This exercise involves you starting with both of your feet inside one ring. You then jump forward and land with both of your feet on the outside of the ring. 

 

After this, you jump into the ring in front of you and make sure that both of your feet land inside the ring. Continue this all the way up the ladder while also swinging your arms upwards over your head with each jump. 

 

Hopping

 

When it comes to hopping, start by hopping forwards into the ring in front of you while making sure that you’re always using the same foot. Do this up the ladder and then come back down. When you come back down the ladder, switch the leg that you’re hopping on. 

 

This exercise is effective for improving your strength and balance. If you find that hopping is too basic or easy, you could add little variations, such as hopping sideways through the rings. 

 

Shuffles

 

Shuffling is where these exercises get a little more complex and they require more focus as you need to master your coordination for these. 

 

Begin by standing to one side of the ladder and proceed to move in and out at a diagonal angle through the ladder. Start from the right side and shuffle yourself to the left side while ensuring that both of your feet remain in the same ring. 

 

Once you’ve shuffled from right to left, you want to put your feet outside of the ring quickly and use it to push yourself and place your foot in the ring that’s ahead of you. You can then bring your opposite foot up into the same ring. 

 

Continue this movement all the way up the ladder. If you’re having a hard time completing this exercise, be sure to start at a slow pace. You can then gradually increase the pace as you go along. 

 

When you’re more confident with performing the shuffle this way, you can progress to doing it backward. This exercise works in the same way as described above, however, you simply move backward instead. 

 

Keep one foot on the outside of the rings while you use the other one to go in and out of the rings as you move backward. Make sure that your foot is quickly touching the inside of the rings and tapping out again before you progress onto the next one. 

 

When one of your feet is tapping in and out of the rings, be sure that your other foot moves in a straight line with it and is moving at the same pace. Also, make sure to alternate which foot taps in and out and which foot stays on the outside. 

 

Crossover

 

The crossover exercise is great for improving your coordination on the pitch during times where your feet cross over. 

 

Start by standing sideways and put one foot in one ring while crossing over your other foot and placing it in the ring ahead. Do this exercise with one foot leading up the ladder and then switch so that your other foot is leading on the way back down. 

 

Conclusion

 

Now that you know more about what some of the best agility ladder drills have to offer, you can start implementing them into your training routines. These exercises are superb for improving speed, coordination, balance, and strength. 

 

Soccer players can boost their confidence on the ball by having better coordination and balance and using agility ladders is a fantastic way to achieve that. Hopefully, you can introduce these exercises and start noticing how your players benefit while playing against opponents. 

 

Inter Miami CF Defeat Toronto FC 3-1, Extend Home Winning Streak

Inter Miami CF extended their home winning streak Saturday night after a 3-1 win over Toronto FC. A brace from Rodolfo Pizarro will lead the headlines, as his renowned “joker” celebration came out for the second and third time all season in Saturday’s match.

The win marked the fourth time in a row that Inter Miami has won at home, and this comes after not winning a home match all season before.

Rodolfo Pizarro opened the scoring in the 15th minute after a Gonzalo Higuain pass found him at the top of the box. Pizarro beat his defender with a chop and beautifully placed the ball into the back of the net with a left-footed finish that found the bottom corner. The play stemmed from a Kieran Gibbs sliding interception to take back possession from Toronto, which highlighted how well Miami pressed upfront in the match.

Just twenty minutes later, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, from his center back position, found himself in a place to make an outside-the-foot pass through to Robbie Robinson on the left-wing. Robinson received the pass in stride and beat Toronto defender and former United States International Omar Gonzalez to get a left-footed shot past the keeper and right under the crossbar for the goal.

With a 2-0 lead, Miami was in the driver’s seat. Miami was able to hold on to the 2-0 lead in the first half despite a couple of nervy possessions in which the defense gave up a couple of fouls in good areas.

Toronto came very close to scoring on a free kick taken by the 5’2 man, Yeferson Sotledo, in the 27th minute as he hit the crossbar from just outside the box.

It was only right after the second half began that Inter Miami scored their third goal. LGP found Pizarro with an over-the-top through ball, and he finished with a chip over the keeper from outside of the box. It was a magnificent finish from the Mexican International, who was on pace to score the first hattrick in the club’s history.

He was later subbed off before he could achieve that feat.

Noticeably, Pizarro walked off the pitch disappointed, and Neville touched on it post-game.

“He wanted the match ball; he wants to score goals,” Neville stated. “I loved his reaction when he got angry when he came off.”

Kieran Gibbs became the fourth goalscorer of the night, but not how he or the club would have wanted. Toronto lined up for a set-piece, whipped in a cross, and Gibbs scored his second header of the season as an own goal.

That own goal ruined Miami’s chances of getting their second clean sheet on the year. As they still search for their first shutout since May 2nd (0-0 away at Nashville), it’s a good thing the offense is clicking and scoring goals.

Miami matched their highest goal number in a game with three and have now scored six in their last two games, both in which they won.

The 3-1 scoreline, in the end, was a great and much-needed result for Miami as they defeated the worst team in the Eastern Conference. At the same time, with Chicago’s loss to Orlando City following the match’s conclusion in Fort Lauderdale, Miami jumped to 11th place in the Eastern Conference.

Inter Miami CF ended the night five points out of a playoff spot, with two games in hand on the teams above them.

On Friday, August 27th, Miami plays in Orlando to take on OCSC for the third and final time in the MLS Regular Season.

Inter Miami Win 3-2 Thriller Over Chicago Fire

After not having won a home match in eight attempts to begin the season, Inter Miami CF has been on a roll lately at DRV PNK Stadium.

For the third time in a row at home, the Herons have come from behind and scored two goals in the second half to take the lead and ultimately win the match vs. their opponents. 2-1 against CF Montreal, 2-1 against Nashville SC, and a 3-2 thriller against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night.

This season, Rodolfo Pizarro has made headline after headline with Inter Miami and has mostly been negative. After a winning goal in stoppage time as a substitute, the headlines will differ following the victory.

“I think if I could have picked anyone to score the winner tonight, it would’ve been [Pizarro],” – Inter Miami CF Manager Phil Neville.

Pizarro found the back of the net for Inter Miami’s third and winning goal of the match following a pass from Victor Ulloa, who was fed by Gonzalo Higuain. Pizarro found the bottom of the far corner, beating the keeper on a beautiful shot, and the scenes were so intense he may have just lost his hair tie.

Miami had taken the lead in the first half after Indiana Vassilev scored a rebound goal following a Robbie Robinson shot in the 34th minute. Right place, right time for Vassilev, who instructed the entire move from the beginning. He egged on Lewis Morgan to take some space from their own third after receiving the ball, and Morgan ended up finding Higuain in the middle of the field, which led to a wide-open Robinson on the left side. Higuain connected with Robinson, which led to the shot that led to the initial save. Vassilev was there to put it in.

Just six minutes later, Miami conceded and went into half-time all square with Chicago following a corner kick. Goalkeeper Nick Marsman was beaten on his near post after Francisco Calvo, unmarked, connected with Luka Stojanovic’s cross by a header. A deflating moment, and it got the better of Inter Miami following the second-half whistle.

After a cross from Stanislav Ivanov, Inter Miami conceded just three minutes into the second half to Chicago’s first-half assist man, Stojanovic, found him virtually unmarked and got a shot off from around the penalty spot. At that moment, Miami had to come from behind for a win yet again.

And that they did. Gonzalo Higuain, who arguably had his best performance of the year, set up Robinson in the 62nd minute for his only direct assist in the match. Higuain from the end-line found Robinson in the box, alone in front of Chicago’s keeper, who blasted it right past him into the top of the net.

As the game was level, it was evident that Chicago looked to bunker in, waste time, and see out the draw. Some substitutions from Inter Miami led to a far from the ideal result for the Fire, however.

Neville switched from a 3-4-3 (or 5-2-3, however you want to see it) to a 5-2-1-2 right before the Robinson goal. Robinson played up as a second striker next to Higuain, and Vassilev drifted in behind to play as a number ten.

Robinson scored the goal, and directly after, Pizarro and Brek Shea came on for Kieran Gibbs and Vassilev. Pizarro slotted straight into the ten spot while Shea took over for Gibbs as a left wing-back. (Both Gibbs and Vassilev were late transfers, still looking to get fully match fit. Neither of them has played a full match all season.)

After about 30 minutes of chippy, aggressive play from both sides, Higuain dropped deep, found Ulloa at the top of the box, who then found Pizarro for the winner.

Every goal had a significant involvement from Gonzalo Higuain in this match, which surely won’t go unnoticed. Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, Higuain’s play led to every goal Miami scored on the night.

“His quality on the ball sets him apart from most players in the league,” Neville stated.

Inter Miami CF has lost only one match in their last six, dating back to July 25th. Their previous six-game stretch resulted in six straight losses, one of those being to Wednesday night’s opponent, the Chicago Fire.

In what’s been quite the turnaround for the club, confidence and togetherness seem to be looming large, and they’ll need that to find a steady run of form like they had before the New York City FC loss.

Miami takes on Toronto FC on Saturday night, again at DRV PNK Stadium. The Herons will look to make it four wins in a row at home as they push in the latter half of the season to make the playoffs.

 

 

Tips for Young Soccer Players to Progress

If you’re a young soccer player, you have an amazing journey ahead. If you make it all the way, you could achieve glory and earn millions. If you don’t, you will still enjoy years of playing and meet plenty of new friends. If you want to make the most of your young soccer career, check out these helpful tips. 

Have fun

 

First of all, playing soccer is all about having fun. If you don’t enjoy it, you might as well find something else to do with your time. It’s okay to take soccer seriously, and it’s good to be competitive, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself while you’re out on the field. 

Come prepared

 

When you turn up to a soccer game or practice, you need to be prepared. You should come physically prepared with the right equipment (boots, shin pads, jerseys, etc.). Plus, you should also be prepared mentally. Think about your game beforehand, try to analyze your opponents, and be prepared for any potential outcome. 

Be willing to try new things

 

There are a huge number of technical skills and tactics associated with soccer. However, it’s not like the game has been completely figured out yet. Be willing to try new things, whether it’s a new trick or a new way of striking the ball. Experimentation in your early playing career, and you will develop your own style of play. 

Always carry around a ball wherever you go

 

Practice makes perfect when it comes to soccer. That’s why you should always carry a ball wherever you gIo. If you go to a family BBQ and you don’t want to talk to the adults, you can practice kicking the ball against a wall. On your way to school, you can practice dribbling on the pavement. The more you practice, the better your chances are of success. 

Be a sponge

 

Don’t assume you know everything about soccer. You might be the best player on your team, but thousands of people are more knowledgeable than you. Be a sponge for new information. Listen to your coaches, teammates, and parents. This will help you identify weaknesses in your game and improve. 

 

Attend a youth camp 

 

One of the best things you can do as a young soccer player is attending a youth soccer camp in Europe or America. This will allow you to test your skills against other talented, young players. You will also get a chance to showcase your skills to new coaches and potentially even get scouted for a professional team. 

Dribble

 

Dribbling with the ball is one of the most important skills in soccer. The better you are at moving along with the ball, the better you will be in a match situation. Practice dribbling at different speeds and with both of your feet. 

 

Pass the ball

 

Soccer is a team game. However, many young players try to do it all on their own. Practice passing the ball to your teammates. This will make you a more rounded soccer player and will improve your teamwork skills. If you want to make it all the way to the professional level, passing will be an essential skill. 

Is Phil Foden Going to be the Star of Euro 2020?

Phil Foden has had an incredible career to date. The Greater Manchester-born 21-year-old has managed to force his way into the Manchester City first XI, despite competing with a wealth of world class superstars for a starting berth at the Etihad. Now, the PFA Young Player of the Year and three-time Premier League winner is getting a chance to star for England in his first major international tournament. Many people think that he could be one of the standout performers in the competition.

There Has Been Serious Hype Around Foden

As tends to be the case when England prepare to enter a major soccer competition, there is a lot of hype around some of the players that manager Gareth Southgate has at his disposal. Few have been talked up as much as Foden, though, who is expected to be one of the main players to watch at Euro 2021. The youngster was pivotal to City’s title-winning campaign in 2020-21, and he also played a crucial role in his team’s journey to the Champions League final.

The hype around Foden is justified, with Pep Guardiola having previously referred to him as the most talented player he has ever seen. From someone who has managed Lionel Messi, that is an incredible statement. It underlines the explosive potential that City have nurtured so brilliantly to date.

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Southgate Has a Lot of Quality in Attack

The only problem for Foden is the fact that he is not necessarily guaranteed to start every game for the Three Lions this summer. Southgate has a vast number of options in the positions that the Stockport Iniesta likes to operate in. Foden has played in a variety of positions for City this season, although he has mainly featured in central midfield and on the left or right of a front three, so he will be hoping to pin down one of these roles in the England team. However, he is capable of playing in all the attacking positions, including as a false nine.

England Have Other Players Who Could Shine

Along with Foden, there are few other England starlets that could use Euro 2020 as an opportunity to show the world what they are capable of. Jack Grealish has been such an impactful player for Aston Villa for many years now, and he finally has the chance to display his incredible talent in the national side.

Chelsea’s Mason Mount is another player who is expected to produce big things for Southgate this summer. The 22-year-old’s versatility means that he can play in a number of positions across the park, and he is highly likely to make the first XI consistently.

With Foden in the form of his life and reminiscent of a young Wayne Rooney, England fans have a lot to get excited about for this summer’s tournament. If the City man can nail down a spot in Southgate’s setup, he has the potential to set the world alight.

Five dark horses for English soccer’s 2021/22 Premier League title

With Manchester City looking to run away with the Premier League title this season, some eyes are already looking ahead to who might challenge next term.

The big names are of course expected to be in the running once again, but England’s top flight has provided shocks in the past, and here are five teams that might be competing come the business end of the competition for the 2021/22 campaign.

Chelsea

While Manchester City and Liverpool have been the dominant forces in England in recent campaigns, Chelsea look capable of returning to the top of the pile in the Premier League. Manager Thomas Tuchel has helped the Blues resolve the issues in defense that saw his predecessor Frank Lampard lose his position at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues are being linked with some top strikers this summer, with Borussia Dortmund starlet Erling Haaland just one forward to be connected with a move to west London. A big signing upfront could take Chelsea to the next level, and see them attempt to leapfrog City and Liverpool.

Leicester City

A side that have already tasted Premier League glory in the shock season that was 2015/2016, manager Brendan Rodgers has brought the Foxes back to a side challenging at the top. Italian tactician Claudio Ranieri was the mastermind behind Leicester’s unexpected title win in 2016, and now Rodgers is looking to take the East Midlands outfit back to those dizzying heights.

The Foxes, who are 2.45 at bonusfinder.com BetMGM in Pennsylvania to win the FA Cup final this season, have shown they can mix with the best teams in England this term. Although falling short of the title, Leicester did manage to record a 5-2 win at champions-elect Man City at the start of the season.

Improvements will need to be made over the summer, but Leicester are a team to look out for in the title race next term.

West Ham United

One side that has been one of the big surprises in the Premier League this season is West Ham United. Former Manchester United boss David Moyes has silenced his critics, after what was a tough spell for the Scot at Old Trafford. Now Moyes has overseen a drastic improvement with the Hammers, who are hoping to secure Champions League soccer for the first time.

If West Ham can continue on their current trajectory, then who knows what they might be able to achieve next season with Moyes at the helm?

Everton

Everton made an electric start to the season under boss Carlo Ancelotti but failed to keep up the pace of Pep Guardiola’s City. The Toffees are still in contention to secure Champions League soccer, in what is to be an intriguing end to the season.

Seeing European soccer return to Goodison Park will help the Merseyside outfit attract better players over the summer, and perhaps the men in blue could spring some surprises next season.

Leeds United

A team that will be ranked outsiders for the Premier League title next season are Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United. The Whites have enjoyed their first campaign back in the top flight after a 16-year exodus, and hope to secure a top-half finish this season.

 

Bielsa’s attacking style has attracted plenty of admirers this term, and new additions at Elland Road over the summer should see the West Yorkshire outfit take the next step. Talk of being title contenders might be a bit premature for this team, but with points against the likes of City, Liverpool and Man United this term, Leeds have already shown they can compete with the big boys.

2020-21 has been a tumultuous season for England’s top division. With these sometimes unexpected title contenders, could 2021-22 be just as exciting?

Inter Miami CF v. LA Galaxy – Preview

A game meant to take place last season is finally here.

Inter Miami CF is set to take on LA Galaxy at 3 pm here in Fort Lauderdale. DRV PNK Stadium will host about 8,000 fans in the stands today as the two clubs face off on MLS Opening Weekend. Beckham’s old club, versus the one he owns, the storylines write themselves.

As for what it means for both sides, it’s ideally everything. Both clubs went through highly underwhelming 2020 season’s and kicking off 2021 with three points could mean a ton. For Miami, making DRV PNK Stadium a “fortress” is undoubtedly a priority. And for LA, improving on last season’s sub-par away game record (2-2-5) is theirs.

How Miami Will Lineup

The expectations of Phil Neville in this first game, and his entire first season, are massive. Before landing the Inter Miami job, his coaching resume was well short of what his predecessor, Diego Alonso’s, was. With that said, it doesn’t mean Neville isn’t the man for the job. He knows what he wants to do in terms of his formation and tactics and will try to get the most out of his players.

We’ll likely see a 4-3-3 formation in today’s match, with Pizarro, Matuidi, and Gregore handling the midfield roles. As confirmed by Jorge Mas, John McCarthy will start in between the sticks, playing in front of a backline that’ll likely consist of Joevin Jones, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Nico Figal, and Kelvin Leerdam.

And up top, expect a front three of Robbie Robinson, Gonzalo Higuain, and Lewis Morgan.

Neville spoke highly of LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez before today’s, catch and I’m sure the emphasis on both center-backs, LGP and Figal, will be to limit his chances and be disciplined in and around the box when he’s on the ball.

The midfield three is looking solid. Expect Gregore to be that protector of the backline who looks to connect play from back to front, and Matuidi to play just ahead of him as a box-to-box midfielder. The Gregore signing is massive, considering Miami went without a true center-defensive-mid all of last season. Gregore will get stuck in, make tackles, close down balls early, and relieve Matuidi of a lot of pressure.

Pizarro’s role will be to play as a number 1o. Neville wants his best players on the ball as they’ll look to dominate possession and control the tempo of the game. Pizarro will have to look to provide the front three, especially Higuain, a ton of service in order to create chances and tire out this Galaxy defense.

As for Lewis Morgan, his role will be different from what it was last season under Alonso. Our 2020 MVP won’t just be asked to run down the wing and whip in crosses. Morgan will whip in crosses, sure, but look for him to be taking on defenders more one on one, centrally. Neville wants Morgan on the ball just as much as he wants Pizarro on the ball; they’re the playmakers of this roster. Morgan is in for a better season than his MVP one last year, so lookout.

And then there’s the question of Robbie Robinson. The number one SuperDraft pick in 2020 had a rough season, especially as our striker. With Higuain coming in and Pellegrini off to Fort Lauderdale CF, Neville has looked to convert Robbie into a winger. His time at Clemson saw him playing all over one of the best front three’s NCAA soccer has ever seen. If Neville has coached him well enough, he could be very serviceable for Miami in a wing role.

Game Prediction

LA Galaxy has lost a lot of quality from last year to this. Miami should control the midfield battle and possession, and the chances should come off of that. If the Herons can hold down Chicharito and be efficient in their own final third, Miami could come out with a multiple-goal win.

I’m going with a 3-1 Inter Miami win.

Projecting Inter Miami’s Defensive Plans

After an underwhelming first season in Major League Soccer, Inter Miami CF has had one of the most significant roster turnovers in the league from last year. Starting up top with the front office and head coach, all the way to scouting directors and players, Miami has made copious changes heading into their second year. The addition of Chris Henderson as Sporting Director and Phil Neville as Head Coach (or Gaffer, as I like to say) has already seemed to make MAJOR impacts on this roster as their influence on signings has been very, very evident.

Much of Inter Miami’s problems last year stemmed from inconsistencies in the defense. If Leandro Gonzalez Pirez never signed for the South Florida club, it’s hard to imagine just how much worse their inaugural season could have been. Roman Torres would’ve likely never been traded. The club would’ve probably relied on him, Nico Figal, and Ben Sweat, A.J. DeLaGarza, Andres Reyes, Alvas Powell, or Christian Makoun as options in Diego Alonso’s three-at-the-back formations. Things got ugly for Inter Miami defensively early on in the summer of 2020. It carried on through to the playoff match in Nashville that resulted in a 3-0 defeat due to a lack of identity, focus, and defensive help.

The additions of Ryan Shawcross, Joevin Jones, Kelvin Leerdam, Kieran Gibbs, Patrick Seagrist, Aime Mabika (I think), and Ian Fray were all made by the new men in charge to help create a better defensive identity in Phil Neville’s projected 4-3-3 formation this season. Here’s how:

Wing-Back Additions

One of the weakest points all of last year was our lack of depth and starting quality and the wing-back position. On the left, it was a mix of Ben Sweat and Mikey Ambrose. On the right, we had one game of Alvas Powell in Los Angeles, and it went so poorly that we didn’t see him until the last couple of games of the season. Nealis and Figal were the replacements there.

Sweat and Ambrose have moved on to Austin FC and Atlanta United, respectively. Both guys delivered some excellent moments on the offensive side, including this beauty from Mikey to seal our spot in the playoffs:

Sadly our two left-backs pretty much had more of a positive impact on offense than they did on defense, which led to trouble. As for the right side, Dylan Nealis, in his second year, is still unproven despite a decent rookie season, and Figal should be seen as center-back where statistically, he’s been more effective.

Needless to say, changes were needed. Additions were to be had. Chris Henderson and the Miami Front Office delivered.

It started with a trade for Patrick Seagrist late in 2020 from the New York Red Bulls. The tenth pick of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft only made three appearances for the Red Bulls and is unproven in the league thus far. In a piece for Five Reasons when the deal happened, I discussed how Seagrist would fit into the side but ultimately stated he likely wouldn’t be a full-time starter. He needs more time. That left only Brek Shea as a potential starter at the left-back position until Chris Henderson called a familiar face.

Joevin Jones signed as an MLS Free Agent at the beginning of the month, and it all seemed to be worked out on the left side. The two-time MLS Cup Champion would walk into the starting XI. At 29 years old, coming off a good year with Seattle, Jones is ready to play and should provide some comfort for fans on the defense’s left side. At least until July.

Rumors of Kieran Gibbs joining Inter Miami had been around for quite some time. For the most part, it seemed unlikely after the Jones signing, and even before then too. Gibbs is currently West Bromwich Albion’s highest-paid player and rarely sees the pitch. Getting Gibbs to come to South Florida would have always entailed waiting until his contract ends at the end of June. There’d be no reason for the player to accept a buyout unless the price was very lucrative, and I doubt either West Brom or Inter Miami would have coughed up any money to do so. If you wanted Gibbs, you’d have to be patient. That was always going to be the case, and it is the case now.

The former Arsenal man was announced officially as a future Inter Miami CF player yesterday on a pre-contract agreement. Gibbs is to arrive on July 1st of this year, and depending on his fitness levels, and how Neville sees the team then, he’ll likely walk right into the starting lineup as a left-back.

So what does that do for Jones then? Is he to lose his position in the team? Not really.

Jones has been capable of playing as a winger or wide midfielder in his time with Seattle and the Trinidad & Tobago National Team. Brek Shea, for example, was used as a presence off the bench in wide areas, and when Gibbs arrives, I see Jones as the same kind of threat. Whether it be starting up top or coming off the bench, Jones will be utilized in this team even if Gibbs is to go in and take the starting role at left-back. At the very least, Jones is Gibbs’ immediate replacement if anything is to happen.

On the same day Gibbs was announced, the club also announced Kelvin Leerdam’s arrival.

Leerdam, the former Sounders right-back (it’s all Henderson), was traded to Inter Miami for just $75k in GAM that is spread over the next two seasons. Like Jones, Leerdam is coming off a pretty good year in Seattle and leaves the club having won an MLS title.

He immediately jumps over Nealis as the number one right back on the roster, which does a lot more than solidify the right side. The move for Leerdam now allows Phil Neville to have a starter he can be comfortable with on the right side without having to worry about playing one of his better center backs out of position. With Leerdam as the starter and Nealis as the backup, it’d probably take quite the chain of events for fans to see Figal playing as a right-back this year.

Jones and Gibbs to cover the left side, Leerdam, Nealis to protect the right.  Seagrist and possibly Shea could step in if needed.

The Ideal Center Back Pairing

Very simply put, the additions of starting-caliber wing-backs on both sides shows that Figal is CB option number two, behind LGP. There was talk before the Leerdam signing (from myself included) that Figal was a possible option as a right-back, where he played some last year under Alonso. As mentioned, Nealis is still unproven as a starter. Plus, the Shawcross signing gave additional depth in the middle.

I apologize for the Stoke City fans reading these harsh words about your club legend Ryan Shawcross. Still, when you consider all factors, there’s no way Ryan is beating out Figal or LGP for a starting spot to begin the season. He is the number three option right now, and the front office made the signing to have a third quality center back who can start when needed.

Let’s be honest here, LGP and Figal WILL both have a yellow card accumulation suspension this year; you can count on that.

Let’s also be honest about Shawcross.

He has only played in 247 minutes of first-team football dating back to March of last year. Then he came out in an interview recently stating he was “headed for retirement” until he got a call from South Florida. None of that, including his extended injury history in the last 17 months, shows the signs of a guy who will be coming late to a training camp/pre-season (due to the wait on an International Transfer Certificate [ITC] and P-1 Visa) and be ready to start on opening day.

shawcross injury

The Shawcross issues and the Leerdam signing lead to an inevitable Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Nico Figal center-back pairing to start the season. In the primes of their careers, both guys should be ready to lead this team from the back as they were the best pairing of last year. Not to say it’s the perfect pairing or best pairing in MLS, but with a little bit of added chemistry, help from the midfield, and security possibly by the wing-backs, improvement from this duo should be expected in 2021. Plus, Neville should be very tactically strict, and the club won’t see formation changes from week to week.

In order, my CB depth chart looks like this: LGP, Figal, Shawcross, Makoun, and Mabika (if he’s to sign for the first team). Ian Fray doesn’t make the list after his unfortunate ACL injury at the beginning of preseason.

We wish you the best, Ian.

Projected Opening Day Defensive Lineup

In goal, Miami will field John McCarthy, of course. On the left, Gibbs could start, but that’s in July. Jones will be there until then. Both Figal and LGP will be in the middle as the center-back pairing we should look forward to this year. Shawcross as the immediate backup. And Leerdam will take over the right side with Nealis right behind him on the depth chart.

Compared to last season in which Miami fielded a backline of Robles, Sweat, Figal, Torres, and Powell on opening day in LA, I’d say that this is quite the upgrade.

Shawcross and Gregore Sign for Inter Miami

Both Ryan Shawcross and Gregore de Magalhães da Silva are on their way to South Florida ahead of the 2021 MLS Season. Inter Miami CF announced both signings this week (on Feb. 20 and Feb 24, respectively), and the roster under Phil Neville is beginning to take shape.

It has not been reported how long Ryan Shawcross has been signed for, but for Gregore, it’s a 4-year deal with an option in the fifth.

When it comes to money, it seems as though Shawcross’s deal falls under the normal salary budget. Gregore’s contract will join Blaise Matuidi’s and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s under the club’s Targeted Allocation Money. Both Shawcross and Gregore will also take up international roster slots.

Is Shawcross the Starter?

It would be tough to argue that a long-time Premier League veteran, long-time Stoke City captain at just 33-years old, could NOT be the starter, but I’m here to do just that.

However, this argument relies on the Phill Neville variable and how he will use players after seeing them for 6 weeks in training camp. He specifically referred to Jorge Figal as a right-back in his introductory press conference a couple of weeks back, and if that does end up being the case, this argument is fully invalid.

If Figal is to be seen as a center-back, though, there’s no reason for Shawcross to be used as anything but cover and depth behind an LGP/Figal center-back partnership.

It’s not to say that I don’t believe Ryan Shawcross is an excellent defender who possesses highly valuable leadership qualities that are hard to come by, but there are other things at play here.

Shawcross has only played 247 minutes of first-team football for Stoke, dating back to March of 2020, and a large part of it has to do with injury.

shawcross injury

Given this injury history and lack of minutes in professional games, saying that 6 weeks of preseason may not be enough is an understatement.

There is absolutely no reason for him to be forced on as the starter especially given his age and unfamiliarity with the league. There is also no pressure for him to perform like a starter right away because this is not what would be considered a “big-money signing.” Remember, not a DP, not using TAM or GAM on him, no special MLS rules. Just a simple signing under the normal salary budget. Oh, and it was a free transfer.

Down the line, Shawcross’s value will come from subbing on late in games to hold the lead, veteran presence, his starts for when LGP and Figal are either injured or suspended, etc.

If he is to come from England and get out of the MLS pre-season in TIP-TOP shape, then sure, maybe he’s the starter. But I don’t see him being fully fit for 90 minutes in an MLS match by the middle of April. I also look forward to being proven wrong.

Neville’s Midfield with Gregore

Until Matuidi came in, Inter Miami’s midfield being run by Victor Ulloa and Wil Trapp was a borderline disaster. The backline seemed to have had no protection, and the pair could not help transition the ball from the defense to their attackers up top. Bringing in Matuidi helped a ton, but unfortunately, Trapp nor Ulloa was good enough or consistent enough to solidify themselves as Blaise’s partner.

With the expectation that Phil Neville will try to run his favored 4-3-3 formation or a variation of it, Matuidi is definitely going to need help in the middle of the pitch. Signing Gregore for a reported $4 million and using TAM on him is worth it.

Gregore is an all-around defensive midfielder who excels at winning the ball in the middle of the pitch. He will provide the backline a ton of protection with his ball-winning skills and ability to read the game well. His tackling is outstanding; No nonsense, get stuck in style, and puts 100% behind winning the ball all the time.

He also will relieve Matuidi of a ton of defensive duties. He’s so good at covering the back that Matuidi will now be able to drive forward (comfortably, with protection) as a playmaker alongside Pizarro out of the midfield.

Gregore short passing ability is also good enough that he will be able to provide service of the ball from the backline to the attackers. He’s not shy to get forward when he needs to, and he possesses the quality to score a banger every once in a while.

I see Gregore starting as many games as he is possibly fit for, and right away. You needed a midfield pairing for Matuidi before, and now even more so in a Neville style 4-3-3. Way to get your man, Chris Henderson.

Overall

Both signings were very, very good for Inter Miami. Shawcross on a relatively small deal for what he could provide and one of, if not the best midfielders in Brazil over on a deal that doesn’t cost you a DP slot but will turn out to produce like one.

Shawcross and Gregore have bolstered the squad tremendously, but I don’t think that the Front Office is quite done making moves. Expect more before pre-season.

Phil Neville to be Announced Inter Miami CF Manager

After officially stepping down as head coach of the England Women’s National Team Monday morning, Phil Neville is set to become the Inter Miami CF manager. The Athletic has reported that the club is expected to make an official announcement within the next 24 hours (as of 7am Monday).

Reports have been buzzing around for a while that this move was set to take place. Even before the club announced that they had “mutually parted ways” with former club manager Diego Alonso, it was rumored that David Beckham had been in talks with his former teammate about becoming the manager at his MLS side.

After retiring as a player in 2013, Neville started a managerial career and took numerous jobs as assistant manager before becoming the Lionesses first team manager in 2018. Actually, in 2012 Neville was given an essential assistant role for the England U21’s before officially retiring from play. David Moyes at Manchester United in 2014 gave him a first-team coach role before Neville went on to purchase Salford City and help manage there as part owner. From 2015-2016, Neville took a job as an assistant at the Spanish club Valencia CF before landing his most recent job.

In January of 2018, the England Women’s National Team announced that Phil Neville would finally become a head manager leading into the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Neville’s goal was to take the Lionesses past what they had done in their previous World Cup run and finally make a final. After falling short of that goal in 2019, Neville and the National Team never found a good run of form, and he’s leaving the side on quite a sour note. There were seven defeats in their last eleven games, and Neville himself admitted he was personally responsible and would step down in July of 2021 when his contract ran up. But when David Beckham is on the other line, it seems like you step down even sooner.

Beckham and Neville were teammates at Manchester United until 2003 when Beckham ended up leaving for Real Madrid. There is some familiarity between the two sides, and with Beckham reported to take a more “hands-on role” at the club, a familiar face heading your club’s roster is likely the first thing you look towards.

Many criticisms that supporters and even non-supporters will have about bringing in Neville is that he is not decorated or seasoned enough in the coaching side of football just yet. Neville has no head experience coaching a club’s men’s side after only being a head manager for a national team and a women’s side. Although still VERY high level, there are drastic differences in both games. His time as an assistant at Valencia, Man United, and Salford are the only things on his resume to give him coaching experience in this aspect. However, like Diego Alonso, Phil Neville has no experience with MLS through his playing AND coaching career up to this point. That proved to be an issue as Alonso seemed never to have found a good comfort level here in the states with Inter Miami.

It has been said that an announcement from Inter Miami CF is to come in hours. Phil Neville will be taking over as the club manager, who also has other front-office vacancies to fill.