Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-2 Inter Miami CF

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

On a night where Philadelphia Union celebrated their 2020 Supporters’ Shield title, the club did something they hadn’t done in the regular season since 2019 — lose a game at home.

Second-half goals by Inter Miami CF’s Gonzalo and Federico Higuain gave the visitors a 2-1 win at Subaru Park in the Union’s MLS home opener, erasing a Jamiro Monteiro goal for the hosts.

Jim Curtin made just one change to the side that earned a scoreless draw at Columbus last week, inserting the now-healthy Sergio Santos at striker. Anthony Fontana hit the bench, with Curtin opting to keep Jamiro Monteiro at the 10. When Phil Neville’s Miami side were introduced to the rambunctious home crowd, it was Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain earning the boos, while Union alum John McCarthy earned cheers.

The Union controlled the game in the early moments after a “2020 Supporters’ Shield” banner was unveiled on the Stadium Club, probing a Miami defense that seemed content to sit back and force the Union wide. But it was Miami who earned the first golden chance in the 18th minute, with a dreadful turnover from Jakob Glesnes allowing Robbie Robinson to hit a curler from the side of the box. The shot beat Andre Blake, but not the crossbar.

The midfield battle grew chippy, with both teams throwing themselves after loose balls and getting stuck in. Santos went down in the box in the 30th minute after a good feed from Kacper Przybylko, but the referee judged him to have gone down softly.

Both teams continued their probing — end-to-end stuff, entertaining but lacking in end product. Halftime arrived scoreless.

Neville swapped in Jay Chapman for Robinson, who went down just before the break, at halftime. The teams switched sides as light rain began to fall. Przybylko whiffed at a great chance five minutes after the break, getting behind the defense but scuffing his point-blank chance wide of the goal.

Monteiro, anonymous in the first half, broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. The ball, pinballing around the box, it fell to Monteiro at the penalty spot, who fired a bullet into the back of the net as he was decked by a Miami player.

Federico Higuain and Cory Burke entered the match in the 62nd minute. Burke’s first touch of the season came seconds later, heading a cross just wide of McCarthy’s net. Przybylko did the same moments later.

Tempers, simmering throughout the match, flared after a hard challenge on the Union’s Leon Flach. Martinez and Gonzalo Higuain got into a jawing match that stretched across about thirty yards of field.

Higuain got his revenge in the 73rd minute. After a needless challenge by Flach on the corner of the Union’s box, Federico Higuain hit an excellent free kick towards the Union’s goal. His brother outmuscled Flach and rose up, heading the ball neatly past a helpless Andre Blake.

Flach had a great chance to atone for his error a few minutes later, when Monteiro put a tasty cross through the box that found the young midfielder unmarked at the back post. His one-time finish, however, was a mile wide. He came off a minute later along with Przybylko, replaced by Anthony Fontana and Leon Flach.

But among the substitutes, it would be Federico Higuain who had the final word. Miami broke upfield after a turnover by Olivier Mbaizo, cutting through the usually stout Union defense and pouring runners into the box for a cross from Nicolas Figal. It found the shiny bald head of the older Higuain, and his gentle header left Blake stranded and a clutch of Miami supporters behind the goal ecstatic.

The Union pushed forward in search of an equalizer, but their disjointed night in the final third continued. Instead, Gonzalo nearly made it a third Higuain goal in the 87th minute, with another placed header parried out of the air by Blake at full stretch. Ilsinho’s night as a substitute lasted about 12 minutes, as he came off favoring his leg and Jack McGlynn came on for his MLS debut in stoppage time. Miami played keepaway, and they had the victory.

It’s a short break for the Union before they’re back in action, with the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal against Atlanta United coming up on Tuesday. Kickoff from Mercedes-Benz Stadium is at 8:00 p.m. on FS1.

Three Points
  • Final third flaws. It hasn’t quite clicked in the danger zone so far for the Union in MLS play. Will that come with more reps, or is it a personnel issue?
  • The Higuains. Watching Gonzalo Higuain walk aimlessly around the pitch is genuinely painful to watch, like the most irritating guy in your Saturday pickup game. Unfortunately, when you can finish like that, you get a certain amount of leeway…
  • Short turnaround. It’s a rare Tuesday night game for the Union ahead — a big showdown with Atlanta in the Champions League. How will Jim Curtin, coming off a defeat adjust his lineup for that match?

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach (Anthony Fontana 79′), Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, Sergio Santos (Cory Burke 62′), Kacper Przybylko (Ilsinho 79′ (Jack McGlynn 90+1′))
Subs: Matt Freese, Matt Real, Stuart Findlay, Aurelien Collin, Quinn Sullivan

Inter Miami CF

John McCarthy, Joevin Jones (Sami Guediri 69′), Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Nicolas Figal, Kelvin Leerdam (Ryan Shawcross 79′), Blaise Matuidi (Victor Ulloa 78′), Gregore, Rodolfo Pizarro (Federico Higuain 62′), Lewis Morgan, Robbie Robinson (Jay Chapman 45′), Gonzalo Higuain
Subs: Dylan Castanheira, Christian Makoun, Julian Carranza, Edison Azcona

Scoring Summary

PHI: Jamiro Monteiro — 54′ (Kacper Przybylko)
MIA: Gonzalo Higuain — 73′ (Federico Higuain)
MIA: Federico Higuain — 83′ (Nicolas Figal)

Disciplinary Summary

MIA: Blaise Matuidi – 30′ (foul)
PHI: Jose Martinez — 48′ (foul)


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    All the good work of that Columbus draw just pissed away. You are going to lose games along the way though hopefully not too many considering they have 9 in 22 days coming up… but tonight is a serious bummer. Needed to start the season with 4 points and a win at home. I have no idea which…if any -of the strikers are going to score regularly either…
    ….not to mention that Miami team was old and sucked. We weren’t old per say only slightly less sucky but still should have buried them. Seeing those Miami tanned Higuain’s best us is a pill swallowed sideways with a Saltine.
    Mbazio with his passes to nowhere and delayed-then-strangest-oddest-angles on balls played in behind continues. If he could put his passing together I could be pretty excited, otherwise, I struggle with the guy offensively.
    As for Leon Flach… maybe I was a bit premature the other week. He hit a gear tonight I was totally unaware he had. Played with a massive chip on his choulder too which I like to see…
    I tell my son all the time. “Play Nasty or don’t play at all.”
    Otherwise… the team “is a blunt instrument” in possession and I am emotional and salty. A couple ideas here and there, but tough to watch.
    I like Higgenbotham’s analysis…. but need some more criticism.

  2. It's a personnel issue: says:

    If they wait until July for the help they needed since November, the year will be lost before the cavalry arrives. They got worked in the midfield tonight. All defense and no playmaking & controlling tempo leaves Philly a bunch of sad boys.

  3. Poor coaching, Jim is going with a defensive lineup, Monteiro’s been great, but he’s not a 10. On a few occasions he was behind Martinez on the pitch. He’s a player who will roam the field. Flach’s work rate is great, but if you have Fontana at the 10, which he played last year against Miami, I believe, and scored, it gives you another option on offense.
    Defensively, you needed to replace Mbiazo, not his best game.
    Give credit to Miami, I thought they were outworked but scored on their two chances.

  4. I’m just sad.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Curtin did them no favors. Waited too long to sub anyone in that could make an impact. Seemed to me like he wasn’t sure if he could win it 1-0, then when it was 1-1, he was a at sure if he could win it 2-1, so he waited another 10 mins to make two offensive subs… one in Ilsinho that was a bust since it appears he’s hurt again. Right before Miami scored their first goal, the Union looked tired and needed something to wake em up.. a sub perhaps. Didn’t come. Miami made the most of the minimal chances they had. Union didn’t. Miami does stink, so I’m not overly concerned going forward, but come on Jim, if not for nothing you have an away CCL game in 2 days, you should’ve made subs, just to save some legs for that at least. Curtin lost this one for me.

    • I disagree.
      You have forgotten two things. First, he has judged the kids not yet ready. Second, for the previously injured these were the equivalent of their preseason conditioning run outs, Santos’s third, Ilsinho s second or third, and Burke’s first.
      And shooters are the slowest to become razor sharp. Curtin has to play them to get them sharp, but they aren’t there yet.
      Second basic thought. Remember Tanner saying last year that the success was wonderful, but that it came earlier than he expected. This is the year he gets the last piece, the expensive European attacking central midfielder. It won’t happen until July at the earliest.
      Finally, two older, but extremely high quality offensive players earned their money for Miami. Frederico Higuain was the heart of the Columbus offense for years, a game changer. He can still beat you as a super sub off the bench. And his brother is even more dangerous.

      Martínez controlled Rodolfo Pizarro. He did not control Higuain. Higuain in his prime used to be the better of the two. He still is in short bursts.

    • I have to agree with OMW on the team looking tired and Jim waiting too long to make subs or the right ones.
      From my perspective the goals were from lack of concentration. The lack of concentration came from tiredness. Flach and Bedoya both looked spent to me. Flach was still willing to do the running but just the energy wasn’t in it. Bedoya looked done by the 60th minute. Both these players needed to be subbed sooner in my opinion.
      I think the tiredness also came into play as the Union allowed themselves to get stretched and pulled out of shape. At different points in time during the match you could see Curtin on the sideline asking the boys to get more compact. It was the second goal they paid for it. As the ball comes in there’s only Bedoya near and he’s not really tracking anyone. There’s also I think 3 runners, maybe two, which leaves at least one man unmarked anyway.
      It seems every year we lament Jim’s sub pattern. This year will be no different. If the team has decided to go into the year with a handful of kids to fill out their roster, well then they need to own up to it and play them. At 1-0 Union, Flach and Bedoya needed to both be subbed. Don’t care if we needed two 17 year olds to do it. From what I’ve seen so far the kids aren’t going to lose you a game just by being on the field. They are competent and thoughtful in their play. What I wouldn’t expect them do do at this point is win a game or be used to try and win one. But that wasn’t the situation at 1-0.
      The failure is shared, from squad selection for the season to injuries to tiredness and lack of fitness and even timid substitutions or reluctance to remove starters. Good news is almost all of these things are curable or able to be adjusted for. Time for some growth again boys.

    • I honestly don’t see the sub situation as having anything to do with the kids at all. With Burke and Ilsinho being back, and Santos being able to start, we actually had non-kid subs to play. For me, the right sub early was Fontana for Flach (or god forbid, Bedoya) and put Fontana at the 10 and Monteiro at the 8.

      Then you put Burke and Ilsinho on.

      After that if you still want to chase the game, I have no issue with Sullivan and McGlynn and think they have at least shown enough to know what direction the goal is in.

      So yeah, not trusting the kids or the kids not be good enough has nothing to do with it. Curtin not making the obvious subs early is the issue. I have the feeling we are going to see Flach and Bedoya get run into the ground all season while Fontana is on the bench and Montiero is at the 10.

      • As I said, I think both Bedoya and Flach needed to come off and you weren’t going to fill both those positions on the wide part of the diamond with Ilsinho and Burke. So in my mind you need at least one of the teens or Real. They have a game in three days and 7 in 22, so the smartest thing would have been to gotten your starters off and thrown the kids to the wolves here and not need to do it CL action. So when this doesn’t happen, to me it says they were reluctant to play the kids. That game needed killing off. It needed fresh young legs to go chase Miami and hound them. That didn’t happen until Ilsinho got hurt.
        You say it’s about not making the obvious subs. I say it’s not making the right subs because of a reluctance to play the kids when veterans are around. I think it’s also a misuse of resources.

      • “So when this doesn’t happen, to me it says they were reluctant to play the kids.

        I say it’s not making the right subs because of a reluctance to play the kids when veterans are around.”

        I mean, Curtin has never ever ever ever been praised for his subbing patterns or ability to rotate, whether his options were kids or cheap MLS veterans whose last good years were in the early 2010s.

        Curtins lack of rotation has been a consistent theme every single year so I just think it’s a bit not accurate to look at it in game 2 of this year and blame “the kids” when at this point it’s clear Curtain would rather run a one legged Bedoya out there than perform any sort of squad rotation.

  6. Mbaizo gave the ball away too much, was no threat offensively when he had the ball in the offensive zone, made poor passes. he has got to improve or the Union need yo replace him.

    Kacsper just cant miss those easy finishes or they are in trouble. nobody brought their A game tonight.

    Hope they sign the Hungarian guy soon. The offense is not clicking.

  7. For as good as our defense has played, it mystifies me how bad we are at defending crosses. On the other end, we had 9 corners to their 1 and either we can’t get our heads on the ball or the corner is short or badly hit. That being said, I think many will underestimate our chances to get a result in Atlanta and look too much into tonight’s results.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      The thing is, the team did get onto the end of crosses. They just couldn’t put them on frame. The bigger issue for me is that they continue to rely on crosses as the only offensive avenue. Miami bunkered and made it hard for the Union to turn those chances into goals and it worked. Other teams will do the same.

      On an unrelated note, Harriel should be bearing down on Mbaizo in practice going forward. There is absolutely no reason the latter has earned a place in the XI after last night.

      • I agree the overreliance on crosses as a form of offense for the Union is a problem. But it was the case last year too. I think part of the problem last night is Miami itself. They don’t really try to play off the counter, and they don’t really need to with the playmakers they have on offense. Made it hard for the Union to generate turnovers in good spots, which is their main alternative source of offense.

  8. Well…looks like no USOC for us this year. We had a job to do and didn’t get it done. I give Miami its proper due on their goals, though…great goals. Let’s hope it’s just a match and not a trend and flip the script for this Tuesday’s CCL QF first leg against Atlanta.

  9. This sucked, but I suspect Miami will be a bit better this year than last, even though their roster is so weird. Still reasonably optimistic about the Union’s season.

  10. Not a lot of purpose when entering the final third, though I’d rather that be the problem needing fixing than not being able to work it into the final third at all.

    It was a lousy L, but it’s so early.

    Also, the boys may have taken an L, but I thought those yellow shorts were winners.

  11. Timothy A Herring says:

    A loss, at home, to a relatively new MLS club. Oh when oh when will you all see the light — the P.U. needs new ownership and Manager.

  12. This was a personnel problem.
    Against a bunkering team you need a #10 who is crafty in small areas to open up space. I LOVE Montiero, but that is not him. Fontana should have started at #10. Flatch is doing great, but that makes him the one without a seat as Montiero moves back to #8.
    Maybe the best thing for the team is for Flatch and Montiero to play the 8s and have Bedoya fill our hole at right back. He wouldn’t like it, but heavy is the Captain’s armband. Jordan Henderson moved positions regularly for Liverpool and our own Mo Edu did the same.

    • Thank you for this, I agree and notice this too. Monteiro does a lot of great things, but I think those things are better served at the 8. His bulldog defending, his desire to dribble into space, his tendency to stand on the ball and slow things down, all work better at the 8 than the 10.

      At the 10 he just doesn’t play forward fast or decisive enough. And like Aaronson, he is likely to run all over the pitch and run out of dangerous positions.

      In addition, I think Flach is playing very good and Bedoya is Bedoya, but they are the same type of player. Pure engine guys who can be the glue of your formation. When both are at the 8 though, you lack any sort of creativity or ball skills. Putting Montiero at the 8 and then Flach/Beodya at the other is a better balance in my humble opinion.

      Then you get Fontana at the 10, who brings a different skillset there but will still mostly play defense and run, but is also much more likely to go towards goal and look for the shot. And based on what we have seen so far, his shot is good enough that I want him shooting and forcing saves or atleast force the defense to respect him.

  13. Andy Muenz says:

    Oh well. Should have left after they displayed the banner. Fireworks before the game are obviously a bad sign for this club.
    Was also disappointed that now that Mark and Ray are gone, the team stood for the anthem. Kneeling as a group always seemed like a mark of unity among the team which clearly wasn’t there last night.

  14. This is the worst kind of loss. We outplayed Miami, pretty decisively for significant parts of the game, and still lose.
    This is a prime example as to why successful teams spend money on the striker position. Clinical finishing of opportunities presented was the difference in this game.
    On a different note, the COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE of the gameday staff to enforce safety protocols and allowing that huge group of Miami fans to occupy the sections behind the north goal in the second half was horrendous – like a lose-your-job kind of failure. NO distancing enforcement. NO ticket/seat enforcement. As somebody who had to convince my wife to let me bring the kids to the game – by telling her how the Union enforces safety protocols – this calls their abilities SIGNIFICANTLY into question.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Did you get a survey e-mail this morning from the team about your gameday experience? If so, you can let them no about the issue with the Miami fans.

      • I did. Also e-mailed my STH rep. To their credit, she called me Monday afternoon to apologize and indicated that they working with their security company to make sure this didn’t happen again.

  15. It was a rough day for the boys in light blue! As mentioned above by the masses… I think Fontana should have been the 10.I think me brings a more offensive attitude. Also…Miami took advantage of the few chances given. The U had a more but less effective! Off to Atlanta!

  16. So Santos is no starter at least rn. He did absolutely nothing. We need a striker who will take defenders on in the box and can hit the target inside And outside the box. Give me Fontana, he’s the best we have in the position right now. Santos can sub when the opposing defense is spent and tired. We had i believe 9 corners to 1. You’d think we’d capitalize on at least one! Or even just hit the target…. They mise well just give the opposition a 6 yarder when we have corners. At least we would be at the 50/50 ball. I said it before , they need to get a well rounded stellar forward who is a true number 9. Can we really rely on the mids to score all season ?

  17. Basic principle:
    You get people into game shape by playing them in actual, real games.
    Ask the Phillies how well the alternative site achieved that purpose last year. Ask Andy Reid how full contact practice does in getting a football team ready for a regular season game.
    Burke and Santos will get their game minutes because they need them to get into game shape. It will cost us some games, but if it is not done they will never be ready to contribute later.

  18. This was not Curtin’s finest moment. With one of the franchises biggest ever games just 3 days after this home opener, it was time to get creative with squad rotation. Instead he went with his first choice squad and lost. Tuesday is going to strenuous, hopefully no one gets injured. Why did Fontana spend all preseason in the 10 if he isn’t going to start a game like this? This game was a great argument for spending bank on world class strikers. Gonzalo put his one chance away, while Burke and Kascper both sent their chances wide. I don’t see chemistry between Sergio and Kascper and want to see Burke and Sergio start tuesday.

  19. Had nothing to do with Curtin. We had 10+ corners and many crosses but no one able to finish them with a header or shot. The bad headers of Kasper and Burke show that heading is not their forte. They need to seriously improve their technique or get a better header on the team. Miami showed us how important that is. Poor shots of Flach, etc. also did not help.

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