Co-authored By Alex Windley
In what’s set to be the one of, if not the biggest off-season’s in Inter Miami CF’s short history, the club has already kicked off with several big moves before the 2022 campaign. Trading a fan favorite, signing another Brazilain midfielder, and re-signing a depth piece are a few of the many moves to be made before the club’s 2022 home opener against Chicago Fire FC on February 26th at DRV PNK Stadium.
Here are the three moves, broken down:
Lewis Morgan Traded to RBNY
Last Thursday morning, the Athletic broke the news that Inter Miami CF will be trading Lewis Morgan to New York Red Bulls for $1,200,000 in allocation money.
While a surprise to some, the move shows just how Inter Miami is going to have to deal with the upcoming sanctions handed to them by MLS following the result of the Matuidi Investigation earlier this year.
The sanctions are/were as follows:
- $2 million fine to club
- $200k fine to managing owner Jorge Mas
- $2.27 million reductions in allocation dollars in the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
What’s noteworthy about this trade is the large sum of allocation dollars that Miami will be receiving as the result of the transaction. The $1.2 million in allocation money that Miami is getting in return does well to help cover the funds reduced by the league (sanctions listed above) for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
When the club announced the trade, it was made public that Miami would be receiving $700k in GAM in 2022 and $500k in GAM in 2023. Not to mention, following Lewis Morgan’s MVP 2020 season, the club handed him a contract extension that included a pay raise. The salary increase was enough to warrant Lewis Morgan dollars from Miami’s Targeted Allocation Money. Getting that money off the books will bode well to reduce the harm of the sanctions and give the potential to bring in more quality signings.
It is projected that approximately $1.3 million for the 2022 season is being reduced. By receiving 700k in GAM and getting a TAM contract off the books, Miami has indeed freed themselves for more opportunities in terms of bringing in players. As for 2023, Miami has gotten ahead by starting to eat away at the upcoming sanctions that aren’t directly affecting them yet.
Sporting Director Chris Henderson was handed a tall task when he took the Miami job, and this decision about a fan favorite is undoubtedly just one of the many challenging moves he’ll have to make in the coming weeks.
Lewis Morgan had not only played but started in every Inter Miami match in the club’s short two-year history. After five goals and five assists in the 2020 season and some lights-out play that helped Miami reach the playoffs that year, Morgan was named the club’s first-ever team MVP. In 2021, his production fell way short of expectations under Phil Neville, partly to do with a position switch for a large chunk of the year. Morgan was asked and delivered on playing as a right-wing-back in 2021 and an attacking player. The defensive task asked of him took away a lot of potentials for him to be able to produce on offense; however, the club may still have wanted more from Morgan in terms of production.
Jean Mota Headed to South Florida
After signing Gregore in early 2021, Inter Miami adds another Brazilian to their roster with the acquisition of 28-year old midfielder Jean Mota.
Mota, a versatile player who can play as a central midfielder or left-back, is the first of many building blocks to be laid during the Heron’s offseason roster overhaul.
The signing of Mota has been a long time coming.
Reports of the Brazilian’s move have been circulating since late October; recently, Miami made those reports official.
Inter Miami Sporting Director Chris Henderson had this to say about the signing: “He’s a well-rounded, versatile and very smart player on the pitch. He checked every box through our diligent recruitment process, and we are excited to see him represent the Inter Miami badge.”
According to reports out of Brazil, Mota’s transfer fee will be around $534,883.20. For a player in his prime and a position of need for the club, this signing is a low-risk, potentially high reward for Inter Miami.
On the field – presumably, Mota would slot in alongside Gregore.
The Brazilian duo should make a formidable pairing.
Gregore, Inter Miami’s 2021 season MVP, would be the more defensive player of the two, which will allow Mota to get up and down the pitch, giving Miami more dynamic movement in a position that has been stagnant since the club’s inception.
While Mota isn’t a world-beater by any means, he’s much more mobile than previous players Miami has had in his position. His left foot can be dangerous when given time and space, and if the Herons are hit by the injury bug again next season, the 28-year-old can comfortably fill in left-back when needed.
Mota isn’t the flashiest player, but his signing is the first step in a long road ahead for Inter Miami.
Miami Re-Sign Victor Ulloa
Though he’s not a name that stands out on the team sheet, Victor Ulloa’s leadership and ability to be a “Swiss Army Knife” for Phil Neville in 2021 saw him re-signed and awarded a new two-year contract.
Following being traded for by Miami from FC Cincinnati in November of 2019, Ulloa has been a staple in Inter Miami’s roster in their first two seasons. As a result of the trade, Miami took in the previous contract Ulloa had been given that saw him making $220,000 a year. Miami then announced that the option to retain Ulloa on that deal was declined for 2022 and has since announced Ulloa on a brand new agreement for potentially less money.
As Miami is set to face financial sanctions, hitting on value deals will be at the forefront of every deal they’ll make this offseason.
Having a player as versatile as Ulloa in a physical league like MLS is key to keeping your season consistent. As Miami suffered an injury bug in 2021, it was the 29-year-old who stepped in to fulfill whatever position was needed.
Be it as a right-back, a 10, or a deep-lying midfielder, Ulloa did all of that and then some.
As Inter Miami head into their first year of sanctions – even though some of that money was alleviated by Lewis Morgan’s trade to the Red Bulls, re-signing a player like Ulloa on a (presumably) less expensive contact will give Miami tons of flexibility.
Although he only started 14 matches on the field, Ulloa showed that he’s capable of making an impact when given the opportunity.
His knack for the high press and tireless work rate made him a player that Neville often relied on.
Not only is he valuable on the field, off the field, but his contributions to the South Florida community also earned him a nomination for MLS Humanitarian of the Year.
The off-season rebuild won’t be easy, but re-signing a player that is a steady presence in the locker room and is an exemplary professional will go a long way in maintaining a club philosophy and DNA.