Nearly all the buzz around Inter Miami’s summer signings has centered around Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, which makes perfect sense because the three former FC Barcelona teammates are among the best players of their generation.
But the addition of three rising South American talents during the past few weeks should not be overlooked as the team heads into Wednesday’s home game against Nashville SC.
Inter Miami spent approximately $15 million in transfer fees to get Argentine midfielder Facundo “Facu” Farias and center back Tomas “Toto” Aviles and Paraguayan midfielder Diego Gomez, who scored the opening goal Saturday in Miami’s 2-0 road win against the New York Red Bulls.
The three newcomers, who were signed via the MLS Under-22 Initiative program, were among five Inter Miami players under the age of 21 who started the game Saturday while Messi and Busquets rested and came off the bench in the 60th minute. The other two were 19-year-old Pembroke Pines native Noah Allen and 19-year-old Honduran David Ruiz, who grew up in Little Havana.
Benjamin Cremaschi, the 18-year-old midfielder from Key Biscayne, entered the game in the second half and provided the assist for Messi’s goal.
Miami coach Tata Martino has been impressed with the young players and wanted to test a group of them together as starters to see how they would fare without the guidance of Messi and Busquets. They displayed composure that belied their youth in a raucous Red Bull Arena.
Their performance was a relief for Martino, who will have to do without several national team players, including Messi, as they report to their national teams for matches over the next three months.
Messi is expected to join Argentina’s national team next week, after Sunday’s Inter Miami road game against Los Angeles FC and he would miss the Sept. 9 home game against Kansas City because Argentina plays World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador Sept. 9 and Bolivia Sept. 12.
“We put a lot of value in this win because (playing with a rotation) is something we need to get used to because Leo is going to join his national team,” Martino said. “He’ll miss at least three games this year and next year it will be the same, and we need to understand that when he’s not here the team still needs to get results.
“We had to know what the response would be when Leo doesn’t play, and the response was satisfactory.”
Gomez, 20, was recently called up to Paraguay’s national team. He joined Inter Miami from Libertad on July 19 and has played the most minutes of the newcomers.
Martino said Paraguay national team coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto attended Inter Miami training recently to get a closer look at Gomez, and that the young midfielder is making strides.
“He not only scored the first goal, but he also played a very good match and that surely will fill him with confidence for the upcoming games and for the Paraguay national team,” Martino said.
Meanwhile, Farias and Aviles are getting acclimated to life in South Florida and the physicality of MLS. Farias signed on July 29 from Colon and Aviles Aug. 1 from Racing.
“It was a very busy time for me and my family, to get adapted because I am from a small town and everything in Miami is big and spread out,” Farias told the Herald on Friday. “Also, I went from winter in Argentina to intense heat here. From a football side, we already won a title and I just got here, so that’s incredible. Even though I have just been here a short time, I got to feel like part of something with my new teammates.”
Playing alongside Messi is a dream come true for Farias, who posed for a photo with the star last year in Argentina.
“I never imagined then that I would be his teammate so soon,” Farias said. “I must take advantage of this opportunity. He is not only a great player, but an incredible person. He is humble, especially how he helps the youngest players. Sergio, Jordi, and Josef (Martinez), too.”
He has already shown his fearlessness, volunteering to take a penalty kick in his debut against Cincinnati.
“In (Colon) Santa Fe I liked to take PKs, so when the game ended I told Tata I wanted to take one,” he said. “I was very confident that I could score.”
Aviles also is adjusting to life in a new country and the reality that Messi is his teammate.
“We have been watching those players since we were little, it’s a dream,” he said. “We can learn so much from them. I was a little nervous the first time I met him, but he is a very modest person who treats everyone the same, so that made it easier.”
Inter Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin heaped praise on the newcomers.
“People look at signings from overseas and they automatically expect them to come in and be world beaters,” Yedlin said. “But even more than playing, they have to adjust to life here. It’s difficult and they’ve all done real well with it, and that shows on the pitch. I am proud of them.”