On Saturday the Luis Suarez era officially began in Fort Lauderdale. The Uruguayan striker took part in Inter Miami training for the first time as his new team began their preseason. After joining from Gremio in Brazil where he scored 17 goals and assisted 11 more, expectations couldn’t be higher for his reunion with former Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets. Despite being 36, Suarez has shown that he has plenty to offer the Herons, but he joins a host of other aging stars and head coach Tata Martino will need to ensure that he gets the best out of Suarez and the other players on the roster during the season.
The Herons learned a tough lesson last season about the demands of a busy schedule and what can happen when you don’t rotate enough. Messi joined Miami during Leagues Cup play featuring in almost all the minutes that he was available for, not only for Miami but for Argentina on international duty as well. The result was that he ended up missing six of the last nine games of the season due to injury as the Herons missed the playoffs by nine points. While that seems like a large number, two of their losses down the stretch were to Charlotte FC, the team that they were chasing for a playoff spot. There’s an element of what could’ve been in that scenario, and Martino isn’t looking to repeat it considering Suarez’s knee issues.
There was a period last season during which reports emerged that Suarez may have been considering retirement due to his chronic knee injuries During the summer of 2023, Gremio president Alberto Guerra confirmed Suarez’s struggles with his knees. The striker needed cortisone injections almost daily and Suarez also was rested during matches on synthetic turf. Due to some MLS stadiums also featuring turf, that kind of rest may need to carry over to the United States at which point Suarez’s backup Leonardo Campana will need to deputize.
“Throughout the season we’ll have to take precautions with the player, but he trained well… and after his year with Gremio we expect a very good version of Suarez,” Martino said about Suarez following training.
Martino then continued to talk about how well the Barcelona quartet combined at the end of training stating that, “they haven’t forgotten how to play together.” Those are scary words for the rest of Major League Soccer and Suarez backed them up in his introductory press conference as well.
“Why wouldn’t we dream of winning all four titles this year?” Suarez said about his own expectations for the season. Coming from somebody else that might seem like it’s unreasonable, but Suarez has won a treble with the Barcelona quartet along with multiple doubles during his time in Spain. If they can bring even half of this to Miami, the Herons will be tough to stop this season. They know that all of America and the world is watching, which Martino acknowledged, but that’s a good thing for the Herons and the league.
More eyes will be on what’s happening in Major League Soccer and the hope is that as players like Suarez have positive experiences, more players will want to join. Suarez spoke about how he discussed wanting to come to MLS with his Uruguayan countryman Nicolas Lodeiro of the Seattle Sounders and that he’s excited to potentially face him. Since the Sounders aren’t on the regular season schedule for the Herons that would need to come in playoff or cup play, but that’s even more motivation to perform.
Of course, Miami will need to live up to the sky high expectations being set for them but Martino managed Barcelona and Argentina so he’s used to leading a team expected to win every game and Messi already brought the Herons their first trophy in club history, now it’s time to build on that.