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Match preview: Inter Miami CF vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Howie Pollard

Who: Inter Miami CF (1-0-0) vs Philadelphia Union (1-0-0)

What: MLS Regular Season, Matchday 2

Where: DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, FL

When: Saturday, March 4th, 7:30pm

Watch: Apple TV (One of six free games this week)

Whistle: Chris Penso; Nick Uranga, Ben Pilgrim; Kevin Lock; Edvin Jurisevic; Cameron Blanchard

The Union will look to build their first win streak of 2023 as they head down to the sunshine state on Saturday to take on Inter Miami CF after beating the Columbus Crew 4-1 at Subaru Park last week.

The Herons will also look be looking to make it two wins in a row after defeating CF Montreal 2-0 at home.  The victory was Miami’s first on opening weekend in the club’s four year history.  The shut-out also ended Miami’s streak of allowing at least one goal in their last ten 10 consecutive home games, dating back to last year.

The Union hold the edge against Miami all-time (six meetings), having won three games, drawing two, and losing just once.

The Union have never lost in Miami (2-1-0).

Fun Fact — Although Jim Curtin has never lost in Miami as coach, he lost his only match at DNV PNK Stadium (then known as Lockhart Stadium) as a player: a 2-0 loss to the Miami Fusion while playing for the Chicago Fire.

Scouting Report: Inter Miami CF

The hope for Inter Miami entering the 2023 is to continue to build off of their strong second half of the 2022 season and make the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive season.  After a sluggish start in 2022, Miami’s sails caught wind via the arrival of Alejandro Pozuelo and the late resurgence from Gonzalo Higuaín.  They earned the six seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs but were ultimately bounced in the first round after losing to NYC FC.

“It was a different feeling around this football club,” said Miami head coach Phil Neville speaking to the press after match day one. “Over the last 12 months – and we spoke before the game about the start of the journey – I do feel as if this is not the start of the journey. I feel as if this is just a continuation of the journey that we started last season.”

It may feel like a continuation of last season, but there is have certainly been some major changes.

Gonzalo Higuaín announced his retirement after the 2022 season, and Pozuelo’s time in south Florida lasted just half of a season, as the striker elected to move on and is now reportedly signing in the Turkish Super Lig. Additionally, Jamaican international centerback Damien Lowe was traded to the Union over the winter.

Despite some key departures, the pink and black certainly made some splashes with a few key arrivals.

Bonafide MLS striker Josef Martínez joins the Herons through a contract buyout with his former club Atlanta United.  Martínez brings 98 goals and 16 assists with him to Miami as he looks to fill the roles left vacant by Higuaín and Pozuelo.  He’ll be looking to net his first goal for Miami after he was kept off the score sheet last week against Montreal.

To help offset the loss of Damian Lowe, Miami brought in Ukranian international centerback Sergii Kryvstov. Kryvstov got off to a dream start, scoring Miami’s first goal of the season last week, which proved to be the match winner.

Second Fun Fact:  Kryvstov became the first Ukrainian player to score in MLS since Dema Kovalenko did so for the LA Galaxy in 2010.

Alongside Kryvstov in center defense is Christopher McVey, back for his second season with Miami.  Also back for his second season with the club is U.S international defender DeAndre Yedlin, who is slotted in as the everyday right-back.  At left-back is new arrival Franco Negri, who joined this winter from Argentinian side Godoy Cruz and earned his first start last week.

In midfield, Rodolfo Pizarro returns to the club after his loan with Mexican side CF Monterrey (from whom he was originally acquired in 2020).  After an underwhelming initial stint with Miami in 2020 and 2021, Miami is hoping for strong resurgence from the Mexican international this season.

Rounding out the midfield are Brazilians Gregore and Jean Mota, both of whom play as defensive midfielders alongside Pizarro in head coach Phil Neville’s 4-3-1-2.

Newcomer Nicolás Stefanelli was given the start last week against Montreal at center-attacking mid, though his status for Saturday appears to be in jeopardy after picking up in injury.  If that is the case, Miami head coach Phil Neville may look to the likes of youngsters Harvey Neville (20 years old, the head coach’s son) and Benjamin Cremaschi (18 years old) to fill in.  Both were brought in as 90′ subs last week.

Alongside Martínez up top is the frenchman Corentin Jean, who is filling in for forward Leo Campana who missed last week’s season opener and is being evaluated on a week-to-week basis after picking up a calf injury in pre-season training.

Drake Callender was given the nod in net last week.  Having earned a clean sheet, one should expect Callender in net against the Union on Saturday.

Neville’s  4-3-2-1 formation will have all it can handle with the high octane Union press.  Avoiding mistakes in their own end, which Miami struggled with last year, will be crucial if Miami are to come away with points on Saturday.  Set pieces may be their best opportunity to find the back of the net.

Injury Report: Leo Campana (Questionable), Ian Fray (Out), Edison Azcona (Out),  Noah Allen (Out), Robbie Robinson (Questionable), Stefanelli (Questionable)

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

Entering 2023, the Philadelphia Union are hoping to build upon last year’s success which saw them reach the MLS Cup Final before losing to LAFC.

If last week’s 4-1 win over the Columbus Crew is any indication, that same success should be attainable again this year.

Unlike Miami, who has seen quite a few changes to their starting lineup from last year to this year, the Union’s starting eleven remains unchanged from last year.

At centerback is the duo of Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes, the latter of which is coming off of an MLS Best XI season.  Glesnes found the wrong net last week against Columbus with an own goal, leading to the initial 0-1 deficit before the Union scored four unanswered goals.

Remarkably, Kai Wagner is still slotted in as the Union’s everyday left-back despite numerous rumors of European interest over the offseason.  Cameroonian international Oliver Mbaizo will play out of the back from the right.  Playing against a more narrow 4-3-1-2 formation, Mbaizo and Wagner should have plenty of opportunities to push forward in this match.

At the base of head coach Jim Curtin’s 4-4-2 midfield diamond is Venezuelan international José Martínez, who returns for his fourth season with the club, despite also fielding interest from abroad this past winter.

Starting last week on the right side of the midfield was seasoned veteran Alejandro Bedoya while Leon Flach lined up as his counter-part on the left.

In the midfield, head coach Jim Curtin has plenty of depth this year to implement some amount of rotation from game to game if needed.  It is early in the year, so rotation in just the second game of the year usually would be unexpected.  However, the Union will open up  2023 Concacaf Champions League play on Tuesday when they travel to El Salvador to take on Allianza FC, which Curtin will need to consider when choosing his starting eleven and making substitutions.

With the likes of USA U-20 standouts Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan returning this year, and newcomers Joaquín Torres (acquired via trade from Montreal) and Andrés Perea (acquired via trade from Orlando), Jim Curtin’s certainly has options to make changes as he sees fit.

In fact it was Torres who contributed the play of the game last week against Columbus after coming of the bench; dancing through two defenders before slotting a perfect through-ball to forward Julian Carranza who hammered home the Union’s fourth goal of the game.

Speaking of, Argentinian striker Julián Carranza should get the nod up top again, after netting a brace last week against Columbus.

Danish striker Mikael Uhre usually acts Carranza’s complement up top on the left, while 2022 MLS Best XI member Daniel Gazdag will look to build on his strong performance last week out of the center attacking midfielder position.

Reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the year Andre Blake will be in net, looking for his first clean sheet of 2023.

Injury Report: None

Matchup to Watch: Josef Martínez v Glesnes/Elliott

If Miami can keep their composure in their own half, there should be opportunities to spring Martínez, in which case Glesnes and Elliott will need to be on their guard.

Player to Watch: Kai Wagner

There should plenty of space for Wagner to push forward and whip in crosses into the box. A goal for the defender in this match isn’t out of the question.

Prediction: Inter Miami 1 – 2 Philadelphia Union

Union control this match but Miami put up a fight in the end.




  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Good time to play in Miami Saturday as it will be a shorter trip to El Salvador (I’m assuming the Union won’t come home between the two games). My thought is to play the regular team Saturday and rotate the squad on Tuesday.

  2. Josef Martinez should be a handful on his own so I’m glad Campana won’t be there to add work for Elliott and Glesnes. A very nice summary of the two teams and a conservative win prediction. Very nice.
    For myself, I think the continuity of the Union and their patient play will be overwhelming despite playing at Miami. I’m betting that Gazdag and Bedoya get goals in the first half and Uhre gets one in the second. I think Miami will get a goal at home but lose 3-1 to the Union.

    • Eric Boyle says:

      In his interview for The Athletic Elliot said that the toughest attacker he has had to cover is Martinez. That is saying a lot since he also mentioned Rooney, Zlatan and the Welshman who shall not be named.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        The others besides Martinez were all well past their prime by the time they came to MLS.

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