Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami CF

Photo courtesy Andrew Zwarych / Philadelphia Union

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 1-1-1, 4 points, MLS is Back: 1-0-0) vs. Inter Miami CF (0-0-3, 0 points, MLS is Back: 0-0-1)

What: 2020 MLS is Back Tournament Group A Match

Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando Florida

When: Tuesday, July 14 at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: TUDN (Univision)/TSN, Twitter

Whistle: Referee: Silviu Petrescu.  Assistant Referees Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Ian McKay. 4th Official: Drew Fischer. VAR: Victor Rivas 

A lot has changed since last Wednesday for the Philadelphia Union. They won their first MLS is Back Tournament game against NYC FC and their second game, originally scheduled against Nashville FC, has been changed.  Similar to FC Dallas, Nashville FC had to pull out of the tournament due to multiple COVID-19 infections among the players and staff.  As a result the MLS shuffled the tournament’s Groups and Group Stage schedule so the Union now play Inter Miami on July 14 instead of the originally scheduled July 19.  

With fitness already an issue, the 10:30 p.m. starting time creates an additional challenge for both teams – not to mention their fans (don’t forget that third or fourth cuppa today).  Miami will be clamoring for their first points of the nascent season while the Union can all but wrap up a trip to the first knockout round with three points.

Scouting Report: Inter Miami CF

In its inaugural season, Inter Miami has yet to earn a point after three games – they have also only scored two goals.  Lest one think Miami will be a rookie season pushover it should be noted that all three losses were by one goal and they have filled their roster with some solid (and familiar) players.

 Their big acquisition, Rodolfo Pizzaro is an attacking midfielder with the ability to work in tight spaces and the vision to find runners.  He only played  the second half last week coming off a minor injury but is expected to start against the Union.  Center Midfielder Wil Trapp hasn’t shown much in his new digs after half-a -dozen years in Columbus but his ability to move the ball forward which has been mostly latent this year could begin to express itself soon.  Midfielder Lee Nguyen may be the sleeper player for the team.  He came in late against Orlando last week but had good chemistry with Pizzaro. Expect to see more of him against the Union. Finally, I expect team captain, goalkeeper and former Red Bull,  Luis Robles will not be happy to see the Union after what happened the last time they met.

After some early tinkering, Miami seems to have settled on a  3-4-3 shape.  They haven’t shown much penchant for a high press and prefer to sit back into what looks like a 5-3-2 when on defense – which is much of the time..  The link between the lines has been weak and they’ve been forced to go over the top a lot thus their possession percentage in the low forties.  For Miami to succeed they will need to tighten up their passing and get the ball on the feet of Pizzaro and let him do his thing.

Injury Report:   Out: George Acosta (m); David Norman (M) ; Denso Ulysse (D); Robbie Robinson (F)

Scouting Report: Union

The Union were not an exception as basically every team in the MLS is Back Tournament looked a bit rusty and worn down after a few months off.  As the tournament progresses we expect to see the level of play and fitness rise.

Coach Curtin stuck with the standard 4-4-2 diamond formation against NYC FC even with three of their forwards out with injuries so don’t expect any changes there. The lineup  will remain mostly intact except for Sergio Santos, who is expected to play and presumably start this week in place of Ilsinho – who can then be used in the preferred role as super-sub.  The only other possible change would be rotating defender Jakob Glesnes in for either Mark McKenzie or Jack Elliot. With Santos back in the lineup and the team perhaps  becoming more acclimated to the climate that is Florida in July, the Union will be able to high-press more aggressively than we saw last week against NYC FC.  And as some of the rust falls off, the connection between the midfielders and forwards should be sharper.  

Miami’s offense has so far been lackluster so defensively, the Union need to remain focused and disciplined on their tasks.  Pizzaro is their biggest threat so it is important to keep him under a watchful eye.

For the Union to win, they need to:

  • Improve the link-up between the lines, especially the midfielders to forwards.
  • Keep Pizzaro off the ball
  • Don’t let Martinez pick up a card.

Injury Report:  Not Available as of publication.  Appears that Andrew Wooten (f) will be out.

Key Matchup:  Union vs Circadian Rhythm

A 10:30 p.m. kickoff following a 9:00 a.m. kickoff.  MLS may need to add a nap break to the hydration break.

Player to Watch: Kai Wagner

After missing the entire season until the NYC FC game due to injury, Wagner understandably had an off game last week.  Expect him to come out strong this game.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 3-1 Miami

The Union play a sharp, technically sound game and put it to bed early. Will give up a goal in garbage time.

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