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Former Toronto FC midfielder Jay Chapman eager to find his feet with Inter Miami CF

The Canadian international and ex-TFC midfielder spoke 1-on-1 with WTR about his move to Miami, BMO Field and Beckham’s current form

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Toronto FC
Toronto FC midfielder Jay Chapman (14) tries to settle the ball against Atlanta United FC at BMO Field. 
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

ST. JOHN’S, Canada— After five seasons and three trips to the MLS Cup final with his hometown team, Jay Chapman was dealt by Toronto FC to expansion side Inter Miami CF last fall.

The move to Florida offered a bittersweet opportunity for the Brampton native to find more consistent minutes away from home.

Since making the switch, the 26-year-old’s quest to establish himself in the sunshine state has been a steady struggle, coming first in the form of some immigration issues.

“It’s been kind of frustrating from the start,” Chapman told Waking the Red. “I got my Green Card while I was down here, and so, I missed basically the first three-quarters of the preseason; I really only got in for the last week-and-a-half, so I was a little bit behind the eight ball from the start.”

With little to no opportunity to train with the group before kicking off their inaugural season, Chapman was left out of the squad for Miami’s first game against LAFC and was an unused substitute next time out against D.C. United.

Just prior to the season’s postponement due to COVID-19 was when the former Michigan State Spartan started to feel like himself. Then suddenly all his progress was put on pause.

“The first few games, I was really still trying to get my fitness then right before things got cancelled I was pretty much back to full fitness and training really well,” he said. “Our home opener was coming up that weekend and then all of a sudden everything was put on hold which was definitely frustrating.”

Despite his disappointment in the personal impact of the ongoing pandemic, Chapman recognizes many around him are facing far greater hardships than his.

“I’m so fortunate to be in my situation; there’s a lot of people that are struggling much more than I am right now, so you just got to just take a step back and just be grateful at this time and just hope that things get back to normal soon.”

While he still awaits his regular-season debut for his new side, early days in Miami have impressed the former Red, particularly the support the fans have provided so far.

“This is a great club, I know how focused and excited everyone was for our home opener,” said Chapman. “You could see it even in away games: the fan group that was traveling was great. They had flares and stuff outside our hotel for our first game in L.A. and that was a long trip from Florida to L.A.”

Inter Miami is one of ten new teams to join Major League Soccer in the past decade as the game continues to grow rapidly across the continent.

Part of what separates this expansion side from the rest of the pack is their team President and co-owner David Beckham.

With the former England captain and global superstar at the helm, Inter have become a hot spot for transfer rumours involving some of Europe’s biggest names.

Although it’s been almost exactly seven years to the day since Beckham last suited up professionally as a player, Chapman says the former Manchester United man has still got game.

“Oh man, he can still play for sure,” said Chapman of the now 45-year-old London native. “He was in LA for our first game ever and he came out to the training ground with us and he was kind of kicking the ball around and he’s definitely still got it.

“When you’re that good of a player and have that class, you don’t lose it,” he added. “You might lose the fitness, but not the technique, he’s still got all of it.”

Amidst talks of a proposed neutral site style return to play in the MLS, Chapman says he is “definitely on board with it” and feels that it is “probably the only possible way that we can try and get something done.”

Chapman’s eagerness to get back to playing in any format couldn’t fully mask the disappointment of missing out on a trip back to the city and the stadium he called home for so long.

“I had that one on the calendar as soon as the schedule came out. It’s definitely disappointing. I love Toronto, that’s my home and it will always be home. I love BMO Field. I may not be wearing the Red anymore, but anytime I can play on that field in front of those fans, it’s always going to feel like home to me.”

In a perfect world, Inter Miami would have been in Toronto to take on the Reds for the first time ever at the end of this month. But for now, that’ll have to wait as we inch closer to the return of MLS action.