Inter Miami forward Robbie Robinson, the club’s No. 1 draft pick, left the team’s Orlando bubble for personal reasons on Sunday and will not be available for the MLS is Back Tournament.
Paul McDonough, the team’s chief operating officer and sporting director, stressed that Robinson “did not test positive for COVID-19” but had to go home to be with his family and once a player leaves the bubble he is not allowed to return.
Also, MLS announced that FC Dallas was withdrawn from the tournament due to 10 players and one staff member testing positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Orlando or within the next few days. The entire team had been quarantined on its floor of the hotel since the positive tests.
“Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to t rain and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament,” league commissioner Don Garber said. “The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority.”
Of the 557 players in Orlando, 13 had confirmed positive for COVID-19 and 10 of those were from Dallas. Inter Miami has not had anyone test positive since arriving in Orlando last Wednesday. Robinson’s departure was not related to his health.
“Robbie is not in the bubble any longer,” McDonough told the Herald Monday. “He did not test positive. Something came up, we discussed it, and for personal reasons Robbie decided to leave the bubble. It made more sense for him to leave the bubble and sort it out. Once you leave you can’t come back in, so we thought this maybe was something we could have taken care of from there, but we decided it was better for him to sort it out by leaving.”
McDonough said they expect him back after the tournament. Robinson was looking forward to playing after recovering from a knee injury sustained during the team’s second game at D.C. United on March 7. Argentine forward Julian Carranza is back from a preseason foot injury and ready to play. Jerome Kiesewetter and Juan Agudelo are also options up top.
Coach Diego Alonso said losing Robinson for the touranment is “without a doubt a big loss” but he said team management “understands his reasons” and other players will have to step up in his place.
All Inter Miami players and staff have tested negative for COVID-19 and are cleared to continue training in preparation for Wednesday’s tournament opening match against Orlando City (8 p.m., ESPN).
McDonough said Inter Miami players have been keeping to themselves at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, hanging out on their hotel floor and in their personal team lounge rather than mingling with players from other teams.
Midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro said Monday that he feels safe in the bubble. “MLS put all the right protocols in place, and I, personally feel safe and I think we all do on our team. As long as we keep to ourselves and don’t get together with other teams and other players, I think is risk is low. We are very eager to finally play again.”
Meanwhile, Inter Miami executives are busy shopping for two international players. “Conversations are ongoing,” McDonough said. “Some days I think I’m close [to closing a deal] and other days I’m farther away. I hope to have a player signed before the end of the tournament to join the team for the rest of the season.”
One of them could be the marquee signing fans have long been awaiting. Among the big names linked to the team: Chelsea’s Brazilian winger Willian, Manchester City’s David Silva, Real Madrid’s Colombian star James Rodriguez, and Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint Germain.
Willian, Silva and Cavani will be free to leave their current teams when their contract expire this summer.
Inter Miami added two players in the past two weeks — former U.S. national team midfielder Brek Shea and Argentine center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez — and plans to add two international players this summer to fill out the roster.
“Our plan stays the same, we’ve added a few players through this break, but we still have a plan to add two more international players between now and when we start up again,” McDonough said before the team left for Orlando last week. “A No. 9 and No. 8 is ideally what we would look for, but if we end up with a 9 and another attacking player, then that’s what we’ll do.”
A team official confirmed that Inter Miami had talks with Willian, but it is unlikely he will end up here. Willian, 31, has said he wants to remain in Europe for a few years and then join Major League Soccer.
“I have plans to stay in Europe and try to play here maybe for three or four more seasons,” Willian told ESPN Brasil’s Futebol no Mundo. “I believe I can still perform on a high level. After that, when I will be 35, 36 years old, I intend to go to the United States and play there. It is a goal that I have.
“I don’t rule out returning to Brazil, it is my country and my culture. But returning to Brazil would not be my first choice if I leave Europe. I have the wish to play in the United States also because of my family, being able to live in the United States would be good.
“My family would feel great and so would I. For now, Brazil is not crossing my mind. Of course, that could change and I can realize one day that I want to go back to Brazil. Maybe go back to Corinthians and retire with the club. But my goal right now is to stay in Europe, play for maybe three or four more seasons and then go to the United States and we will go from there.”