Inter Miami’s new leadership is making good on its promise of promoting young, homegrown talent.
Four days after newly-hired coach Phil Neville and sporting director Chris Henderson said they were committed to developing players “with Inter Miami heart and blood,” they signed 18-year-old defender Ian Fray and 17-year-old winger Edison Azcona from their youth academy to pro contracts with the first team.
Azcona and Fray, who played for the club’s USL League One side Fort Lauderdale CF in 2020, become the second and third academy graduates to make the leap. The team signed 15-year-old Felipe Valencia in December.
“Ian and Edison are two players who were quickly brought to my attention during my short time here, and my impressions of them are very positive,” Henderson said. “It’s satisfying to be part of continuing their development and helping them reach a level where they can demonstrate readiness to compete and be valuable for the team on a consistent basis. It’s important to develop from within, not only for the player and the Club, but for the community too because they will always be part of the Inter Miami family wherever their career takes them in the future.”
Fray, a center back, is a native of Coconut Creek and played for Miramar United before joining the Inter Miami academy in 2019. He became one of two academy players to sign with the club’s USL team and was named USL League One All-League Second Team. He played nine games, had one assist and had the fourth-highest passing accuracy among defenders in the league (86.5 percent).
“Growing up, my whole life I wanted to sign a professional contract and to sign it with my hometown club is a dream come true,” Fray said on the team’s app. “It took a lot of hard work on the field, a lot of late nights practicing with my dad, and off the field I was dedicated to the sport, I kept my mind straight and focused. It’s self-determination. I kept pushing myself every day.”
Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham mentioned Fray during his press conference on Friday as an example of the kind of player that could make the jump to the first team.
“When I first started this eight years ago, I was lucky to have been involved in one of the most successful academy systems with Manchester United and Phil was part of that as well,” Beckham said. “I always knew that was going to be the culture, the DNA, and what created the community of our club. Yes, we want to bring great players and names into our club, but the DNA has to be what comes through our academy system.
“The young guys we have here, and the potential we have here is huge, and could be bigger…The proudest moment for us as owners, a club and a family is seeing a homegrown player come through our system and play at the highest level. We don’t want to put too much pressure on these young players; but if they’re good enough, it doesn’t matter what age they are, they will be given a chance.”
Azcona, a native of the Dominican Republic, stood out in his first season at the professional level as an academy registered player for Fort Lauderdale CF in 2020. He was named to the USL League One All-League Second Team and nominated as a finalist for the USL League One Young Player of the Year award.
Azcona was the only player to start all 16 games, played the second-most minutes of any player on the team with 1,284. He had three goals and three assists and led the team in tackles. He was called up by the Dominican national team in October 2020 and again a few weeks ago.