Miami Herald

Pizarro happy to return to Inter Miami with ‘clean slate’ after year away at Monterrey

- BY MICHELLE KAUFMAN mkaufman@miamiheral­ Michelle Kaufman: 305-376-3438, @kaufsports

One of the biggest questions coming into the 2023 Inter Miami season is whether midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro will mesh with the team and reclaim his role as a showcase player after a year away on loan at Monterrey in the Mexican league.

So far, so good.

Miami’s highest-paid player at $3.35 million per year, Pizarro came back with a positive attitude and burning desire to reach the objectives he had when he arrived in early 2020 amid much fanfare as the club’s first “Designated Player.”

He has been one of the best players in training the past few weeks, according to coach Phil Neville, and showed flashes of his skill in the first preseason game against Vasco da Gama on Saturday. He started as a left-sided midfielder, made precise passes, had nice dribbling runs, and launched Miami’s best shot of the night, though it sailed high and wide.

Pizarro admitted on Tuesday that he had some jitters before stepping on the field at DRV PNK Stadium.

“At first I was a little nervous to come back to a place I used to be, but it was real nice experience,” he said. “I’m very happy to be here, with high expectatio­ns for this team.”

He added that it was always his intention to return to Inter Miami after his loan in Mexico. He said he missed the City of Miami, the people at the club, and then paused and said he even missed the reporters.

Asked to compare the team he left with the team now, he said: “There is no use in comparing, I am just focusing on the positives and the future of this team. I see a lot of camaraderi­e with this group and the willingnes­s to work hard to finish on top.”

Neville was pleased with how Pizarro played against Vasco.

“Rodolfo played with freedom and enjoyment,” Neville said. “Some really nice touches. He committed himself to the game plan. What we saw is what we’ve seen in every training session. We’ve got a player back with us that wants to commit to the team and I’m pleased.”

The last Miami fans had seen him in a pink jersey, he was struggling, admitted his confidence had slipped, and his pairing with now-retired forward Gonzalo Higuain was not as productive as expected.

He scored seven goals and had 12 assists in 46 appearance­s with Miami and his frustratio­n showed at different points. Pizarro was at his best and played more freely when Higuain was not on the field.

Pizarro’s departure was expected as the club was overhaulin­g its roster and needed to unload salary to compensate for hefty MLS fines for violating roster rules in the Blaise Matuidi deal. He was hoping a stint in the Mexican league would land him a spot on the Mexican national team for the 2022

World Cup, but that didn’t happen.

He said rejoining the national team is still a goal, but for now, his focus is on Inter Miami.

“It’s a clean slate. We see Pizarro as a new player because I think it’s fair to say his first season didn’t go as well as planned for him or the team,” Neville said. “What’s really exciting for him and for us is he’s coming into a different environmen­t where the

attitudes of the players now match his attitude. He’ll have the respect of all the players.”

Notes: Center back

Damion Lowe was not at training. According to multiple team sources, the Jamaican defender is being traded to the Philadelph­ia Union and the deal was being finalized on Tuesday. Lowe, 29, made 28 starts for Miami last season and will be reunited with Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, his

teammate on the Jamaican national team…Argentine midfielder Nicolas Stefanelli, who signed with the club a few weeks ago, joined the squad at training after acquiring his visa. Newly signed Argentine left back Franco Negri is still awaiting his visa…Midfielder Jean Mota (thigh injury) returned to training.

 ?? MATIAS J. OCNER mocner@miamiheral­ ?? Inter Miami midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro (20) fights for the ball against Vasco da Gama’s Anderson Luis De Carvalho during their friendly soccer match on Saturday.
MATIAS J. OCNER mocner@miamiheral­ Inter Miami midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro (20) fights for the ball against Vasco da Gama’s Anderson Luis De Carvalho during their friendly soccer match on Saturday.

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