They all come with a story. Christian Makoun grew up kicking a ball in Venezuela. Luis Robles was told he was too untalented as a kid in Arizona, and so was stuck in goal.
Roman Torres was a baseball catcher in Panama until hit by a swinging bat. He switched to soccer, and soon was pushed to a tryout for the national youth team. When the coach asked who played forward, most hands rose. Torres, a forward, kept his down for some reason.
“When they asked who played defense, I raised my hand,’’ he said. “Then I had to learn how to play defense.”
He became captain of the first-ever Panamanian team to qualify for the World Cup.
“Now I’m excited to start something here,’’ he said.
You can start anywhere with the Inter Miami CF soccer team, because everything is new and fresh, from the players’ stories to the team’s timeline right down to the jerseys being unveiled to players in private late Thursday afternoon.
“I can’t wait to put one on,’’ midfielder Victor Ulloa said.
But for the past three weeks, they’ve tried to become a village to give birth to a team. They’ve lived together in hotels. They’ve practiced in Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota and Port St. Lucie.
The coach, Diego Alonso, a native of Uruguay, is taking English lessons. Some players like Wil Trapp, an Ohio native, have changed their phones to Spanish mode to accelerate learning. Others, like 19-year-old midfielder Matias Pellegrini of Argentina, are learning to live outside their home for the first time.
This is what sports is like at the highest level. Every team has newcomers. But Inter Miami’s entire roster consists of newcomers to this area, each getting the call here in different ways.
Torres was in home in Panama City, considering playing in Colombia, when his agent called with news of Inter Miami. Trapp was stepping off a plane in Cancun for training with his Columbus MLS team when word came he was traded two weeks ago.
Robles, after eight years with the New York Red Bulls, became a free agent this offseason. He’s 35. The oldest goalkeeper in the league. He knew his skills remained sound, but wasn’t sure how the age would factor into teams’ thoughts.
“On the first day of free agency, all these phone calls were coming in,’’ he said, noting 12 teams called. “That was a pleasant surprise.”
Robles had never been to South Florida, and was flown here by Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough.
“I could see the scale of the project,’’ he said. “For me, he said the best thing possible, that, if I could get my mind around the start-up, that I’d be a part of history. A part of the brand and culture as its formed.”
At the moment he said that, I said, ‘This is a real growth opportunity.’ ”
There remains so much to wonder about beyond the details of the roster. Is Inter Miami really making a temporary home in Broward? Will the Miami-Dade issues turn the Broward site into something permanent?
Beyond that, will the MLS find a home here? The first game won’t decide that. Nor the first month. Come back in the midseason. Come back the second season. Come back and look, too, if they don’t win.
All that’s ahead. For now, there are players’ stories to learn, jerseys to try on, new languages to practice.
“For us as players, it’s exciting to be part of something that’s building from square one,’’ Trapp said.