Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Inter Miami

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union vs Inter Miami

What: Leagues Cup Semifinal

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Tuesday, August 15, 7:00 p.m.

Watch: Apple TV MLS Season Pass

Whistle: TBA

Historically, the Union have a good record against Inter Miami, especially when playing at home. But this isn’t the Inter Miami team the Union have faced before. It’s unlike any team in MLS history really, with arguably the best player on the planet – past and present – suiting up in pink, supported by some pretty high-powered pals and suddenly hot young players too.

Scouting report: Inter Miami

There’s no sense evaluating what Miami did before Leagues Cup began. There is only Before Messi and After Messi.

And, while the things that tend to bring even the best players down to earth a bit in MLS – it’s the travel – may still pose problems for Messi and Co., it’s still too early to see much in the way of effects. Miami went out to Dallas and, in terrible heat, still took care of business with a minimum of fuss. Okay, that may be glossing things over a bit – Miami allowed four goals and required another magnificent free kick from the man himself in order to send the match to penalties.

That said, Miami has undeniable qualities.

With Messi and Sergio Busquets, they score a bunch of goals and monopolize the ball. Robert Taylor, who Union fans remember has been scoring bangers against Philly since before the Argentine’s arrival, is getting on the ball in good spots to contribute meaningful goals, while youngster Benjamin Cremaschi is doing the “dirty running” Jim Curtin loves so much while also showing his ability on the ball.

In short, Miami now presents a challenge more like a CCL opponent rather than a familiar MLS one. The Union have faced and beaten a good number of those in the past, but they’ve been outclassed by some too.

Injury report: OUT – Gregore, Corentin Jean, Jean Mota, Franco Negri, David Ruiz, Nicolas Stefanelli

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The Union are a bit in-between when it comes to describing their current form.

On the one hand, they are in the semifinal and role players like Jesus Bueno and Chris Donovan have been blossoming and contributing with goals and in other ways. On the other hand, while the Union have pretty good xG for the Leagues Cup tournament, they have scored the fewest goals of the remaining four teams and have required penalty kicks in two out of three knock-out stage games, averaging just a goal a game over those rounds. On the other other hand, the Union are allowing well under a goal a game against for the tournament and Andre Blake has been in good form, saving penalty kicks and otherwise brick-walling things.

The team has toggled between the familiar 4-4-2 diamond and the newer 5-3-2 formation, with mixed results. The 5-3-2, for all it might purport to lock things down defensively, has resulted in quite open games—that isn’t something you want against Messi, but it’s hard to guess what Curtin might do. There are further questions over whether the more attacking pair of Jack McGlynn and Olivier Mbaizo should start over their more defensive counterparts, Leon Flach and Nathan Harriel (though Harriel has two goals in Leagues Cup).

Julian Carranza will likely miss out with a hamstring strain, though the Union welcome Alejandro Bedoya and Daniel Gazdag back from the bench.

Injury report: QUESTIONABLE – Julian Carranza

Match-up to watch: Gazdag vs Busquets

There’s a lot of anticipation for the Jose Martinez-Leo Messi matchup but, as Jim Curtin pointed out in his press conference on Monday, if the ball gets to Messi, “it’s too late.”

The key instead is disrupting the work that Sergi Busquets does and that job comes down to Daniel Gazdag leading the press from the front. Gazdag is well-regarded for his offensive contributions, but it is his defensive work that really cements his place as the Union’s most important attacker. The Union’s press is largely triggered by him and the rest of the team follows his lead. If he can successfully harass Busquets and force the Spaniard into quick decisions, the Union will feel good (well, better anyway) about their chances.

Player to watch: Mikael Uhre

As friend of PSP Kevin Kinkead noted, this is an important game for Mikael Uhre. His lack of scoring of late is a concern, but this is a game where he both needs to assume more responsibility (due to Carranza’s presumed absence) and because it’s the kind of game where he can really shine. Miami will have the ball a lot but struggles with speed on the counterattack. That’s a recipe for two dozen Uhre runs down the channels chasing balls from Kai Wagner and others. If he does something with those runs, the Union could crack the game open.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 3–2 Inter Miami

It’s easy to be deferential to the Messi of it all, but it’s also easy to unnecessarily discount the Union.

Philadelphia are the best team – especially the best defensive team – that Messi’s Miami have faced. The Union are also exceptional at home and will likely follow Dallas’s counterattacking blueprint to get behind the Miami defense and cause havoc. They will also likely give away some fouls in bad spots and/or allow a passing move to get through them due to a bad turnover while attacking.

In truth, it’s almost impossible to say what will happen. This is really one of those games where any normal scoreline is within the realm of possibility. Until proven otherwise, the Union get the job done at home.


  1. “Crazy… I mean like, so many positive waves… maybe we can’t lose, you’re on!”

  2. Best Hopes …..Clog the middle of the field. Dont give Busquets any easy look to find Messi or Taylor. Win every 50/50 ball Start Harriel and Kai who should be up for the challenge on the wings. If Uhre cant get a clean shot force a corner kick. The Union should have an advantage on corner kicks. Martinez should play with his usual intensity , but keep his mouth shut and dont commit a bad foul. Blake will come through if he has any chance of stopping a shot. Wagner comes through with a perfect corner and Harriel, Flach or Torres go unmarked and scores the winner in 1-0 Union win in the 92 minute mark

  3. Things I can absolutely guarantee: Messi & co not running back on our counters, and Brujo/Flach (and maybe even elliott) making some bonehead passes in their own defensive third.
    While not on the field, JC needs to win this coaching matchup. The film sessions, practice sessions, and deeper analytics should favor the Union. When Miami looks at us, they might not know our formation, personnel, or substitute patterns. To the eye test, they know we make the game ugly/physical/narrow defensively and dump it long offensively. Those assumptions can be misleading as the Union have more depth and flexibility than ever before.
    I feel like the recent run of games have been good for the Union to get their bad habits out of the way and test their mettle in crunch time. They don’t have to make the fancy pass or buildup, just test the keeper and good things will happen.
    Finally… ANDRE BLAKE

    • Jim was very complimentary of Tata Martino during his press conference yesterday, for good reason. Martino is a very, very good coach who knows the league and has helped revamp this Miami squad very quickly. I’d be surprised if he’s totally caught off guard by what the Union do. So I agree that this is one where Jim needs to be at the top of his game. The tactics need to be right from the start, and the in-game adjustments (including subs) need to be smart.

  4. I have no feel for this game; preparing myself emotionally for 3-0 Miami (or 3-3 and we lose 5-4 on kicks)… while hoping 3-2 or 4-3 Union ends up right.

    But my real question: do we yell that Messi sucks and show him the respect of a proper Chester oppo greeting? Or do we break form and yell that he’s “not bad, actually” … something along those lines… I feel like when Phang points to the crowd to yell it, even he might be a little circumspect about that one.

  5. If it is gentlemanly English-rules pugilism, the Union lose. If it is a flailing windmill-fists donnybrook, the Union win. Simple as that.

  6. Best Hopes …..Clog the middle of the field. Dont give Busquets any easy look to find Messi or Taylor. Win every 50/50 ball Start Harriel and Kai who should be up for the challenge on the wings. If Uhre cant get a clean shot force a corner kick. The Union should have an advantage on corner kicks. Martinez should play with his usual intensity , but keep his mouth shut and dont commit a bad foul. Blake will come through if he has any chance of stopping a shot. Wagner comes through with a perfect corner and Harriel, Flach, Torres or some other unlikely player go unmarked and score a rebound winner in 1-0 Union win

  7. pragmatist says:

    The last paragraph is absolutely correct. I can’t remember a more “Who Knows?” game in the team’s history (during the time period when games matter, anyway).
    I think the biggest wild card will be Gazdag’s health. If he truly is 100%, then this will be a toss-up game. But if he is still dinged up and slowed at all, we might find ourselves in a bit of Busquets-created hole.

  8. I have been a BIG Jack Mc supporter, but feel like if Bedoya is good for 45, let him start. Union need to start solid, start fast and be smart. Capt Bedoya will help with that.
    Let him run his a$$ off for 45 then bring in McGlynn at half.
    Martinez, Bueno, Bedoya would be SOLID mf.

  9. PhilliBear1872 says:

    Almost time gang.

    Time to see if the Union will repay us for the seasons failures and last years cup final – putting ourselves into another final and *hopefully* showing pessi this league isn’t as easy as it seems.

    See you on the other side

  10. Sorry to say it, but the only way we win this is if it is 0-0 or 1-0; there just isn’t more than a goal in our side of late even when we have Carranza leading the attack, but relying on Uhre?! A PK that Gazdag converts is really the best chance we have for victory; I think we’ve got it in us to prevent Messi Inc. from scoring, but not sure we have enough to bring in return. Would love to be proven wrong 🙂

  11. Don’t forget that el Brujo has the uncommon distinction of having actually played against messi (World Cup qualifiers they lost 3-0, but he played all 90)

    In my dream last night (lol) Gazdag scored in the 55th to make it 1-0. Then uhre punched someone in the mouth and picked up a red before the dream changed directions .

    I’m pretty sad that I can’t afford to go to the game today.I’d (consider) pay 200$ for supports section but not SRO. I’m not criticizing the franchise or league, as it makes sense to reap the profits instead of resellers, but damn can’t believe the boys in blue get a chance to beat messi and host the final and me and my friends won’t be there.

  12. Murphthesurf says:

    Good Luck tonight boys !

    DOOP on Messi !!!

  13. Joe Hassell says:

    My feeling is that MLS and Apple really would like Miami to win so that they can move on and play another game (and make more money). Hope that doesn’t come into play on this game (or any game, for that matter). The ref has a lot of power but should not determine who wins and who loses. I may be paranoid, but I’ll be looking to see whether the refereeing is truly impartial and not favoring Miami.

  14. McMohansky says:

    Watching at Fado center city. Anyone else?
    Not paying so much despite my guts saying its gonna be glorious.

  15. The lineup looks really weird. Their not starting uhre despite this pretty much being the perfect game for him. It’s a one striker formation with Chris Donovan starting. I’m very confused. I hope Jim knows what he’s doing

  16. Half-time just ended… Prediction for second half curtin subs on uhre carranza Bedoya and Mcglynn. All right after half-time. Game stays 3-0 until the 90th minute when Torres gets subbed on. Torres gets a 5 minute hat trick and we win on penaltys with olwethu makhanya scoring the winning penalty

  17. DarthLos117 says:


  18. Fucking cunts the lot of them, think there all that cause they’ve got some billionaire owner that bought messi. Tell you another thing and all we should of played a lot better, missed multiple chances that would have made us be in front but played shite. Not happy one bit.

  19. PhilliBear1872 says:

    Wow.. what a horrible match.

    No question the Sons of Ben are frustrated as are the rest of the Philly fan base.
    An absolute nightmare for us all and.. what can we say? Torn apart by not only the players brought in by Miami over the last 2 months but also the others that have been apart of the terrible Miami side that have lost game after game in the MLS.

    They are through, we aren’t. And we can only blame ourselves. Really disappointed with GK and defence in whole. Not sure where we go from here except hope we can do well in 3rd place game and MLS Cup.

    Over and out.. maybe for a while.


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