Rodolfo Pizarro a game changer for Inter Miami, MLS

Rodlfo Pizarro
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 15: Rodolfo Pizarro of Mexico celebrates after scoring the third goal of his team during the match between Mexico and Panama as part of the Concacaf Nations League at Azteca Stadium on October 15, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Monterrey Rayados – 12 million dollar transfer fee

Rodolfo Pizarro – one of the most talented Mexican players of his generation- and coming to MLS in his prime at only 26.

Rodolfo Pizarro a game-changer for Miami

It’s a lot of money- Pizarro isn’t going to light the stat sheet on fire– he won’t score a ton of goals and while he’ll create plenty of chances, he may not even lead the team in assists with the likes of Celtic’s Lewis Morgan and young Argentine Manuel Pelligrini pumping in service from width– but he is an orchestrator, a central-lying playmaker who will unlock defenses and keep Inter Miami diverse in attack.

Community impact

Diego Alonso isn’t going to ask Rodolfo Pizarro to run the show. But he will sell tickets. Angel Hechevarria, a Peruvian-American who was born and grew up in Miami and fondly remembers attending Fusion games as a kid with his immigrant father, has waited nearly 20 years for MLS to return. While he was excited about the signing of Argentine youngsters Nicolás Figal, Matías Pellegrini and Julián Carranza, Pizarro was the first name that “wowed” him.

“In our community, it’s mostly Peruvians and Colombians. We wake up and watch football, and our kids spend the day playing football and in the evening, we watch more football. To get a Liga MX star like Pizarro, a player we’ve all watched and admired, that was a welcome gesture from Beckham and (Jorge Mas). This is the type of footballer where our children immediately want the shirt. This is the type of footballer we expected to come when they said they’d bring in big-time names. It’s exciting.”

On-field impact

Pizarro isn’t a star or a global name like Chicharito or Chucky Lozano, but he’s still a game-changer who plays for El Tri. Is he better than Carlos Vela? Not from a goalscoring sense. But from a technical talent standpoint? Pizarro can change that by making Inter Miami less stolid in the midfield and more dynamic.

Debates will rage about whether Inter Miami overpaid for him. But given the Pan-American flavor of the Inter Miami build and the need for a name the Miami/Fort Lauderdale footballing community recognizes, it seems a good piece of business. Especially so, if Pizarro pays immediate footballing dividends in Diego Alonso’s counterattacking system.

The addition of Pizarro should be a resounding answer to cynics who look at this Inter Miami team and don’t see flashes of the Atlanta United. That cynicism sells both Pizarro and what Paul McDonough has built from the defense forward short. This will be a club with a sturdy spine, a veteran All-Star caliber shielder in Wil Trapp and some dynamic attacking pieces in Pizarro, Pelligrini and, once healthy, Julian Carranza. There’s plenty to like in Fort Lauderdale.

Pizarro move also impacts MLS

Beyond the impact Pizarro will have in generating excitement in South Florida and on the pitch at Inter Miami, there’s also the significance of the move as it relates to MLS.

Carlos Vela arrived at LAFC just shy of his 29th birthday, a player on his way out in Europe and at best, on the tail end of his prime. Other Mexican stars who have graced MLS playing fields, from Cuauhtémoc Blanco to Rafa Marquez to Gio dos Santos, have all been into their 30s or, in Chicharito’s words, entering the “start of retirement” phase of their careers. They were met by adoring crowds, but there was never any question that they’d be playing elsewhere if money, age, and opportunity weren’t the three-headed cocktail luring them to MLS.

That’s not the case with Pizarro.

In his prime

Pizarro is in the thick of his prime and, after being left off the World Cup team, has become an El Tri fixture since Gerardo “Tata” Martino took over in 2019. And with a release clause the main reason Pizarro was able to escape Monterrey, Pizarro is the first Mexican player to head to MLS while a Liga MX powerhouse protested furiously about being unable to keep or replace him. That’s a significant thing.

The fact Pizarro left for a market that wasn’t Los Angeles, New York or Chicago — preferred destinations for Mexican footballer MLS stops in the past, is also fascinating. There are Mexican-Americans in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, though in much smaller numbers than central and South Americans. Fans like Angel Hechevarria demonstrate the pull of Liga MX, and a player like Pizarro, who enjoys the spotlight and television cameras and has won championships wherever he’s been. It is an appealing reason to purchase a ticket.

Is this the beginning of MLS attracting not just “retirement” players or “future South American stars,” but in-their-prime pan-American footballers? It’s too early to tell. But it’s potentially a seismic step in that direction– which makes it a big deal.

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