The Philadelphia Union picked up three points in its opening match of the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament. Now with a midweek match against expansion side Inter Miami coming up, Jim Curtin and his group are looking to put in another top performance.
The Union held their own against one of the top attacking fronts in MLS when they defeated New York City FC in their tournament opener. Both teams had ample opportunities to win the game, with the Union eventually getting a second-half winning goal from captain Alejandro Bedoya. Now the goal is to follow that performance up with a win over an Inter Miami side seeking its first win in the league and tournament.
“We’re focusing on our gameplan and how our coach wants us to play our game,” Union goalkeeper Andre Blake said. “Jim has said before it’s all about how you perform in the next game. We played well against NYCFC, but now we have to focus on Miami because if we don’t get the job done against them then what we did against NYCFC doesn’t matter.”
“We’re going up against a team that is having a slow start in MLS, but we have to be ready for that. We have to come into this game from a professional standpoint and be ready. They have some good players in the squad. We have to make sure we’re ready to go off the bat.”
Tuesday’s showdown in Orlando will be the complete opposite for the Union, who will play its first evening game of the competition. After playing NYCFC in the 9 a.m. Florida heat, the Union will take on Inter Miami at 10:30 p.m. After owning more of the possession in the early stages against NYCFC, the Union eventually had to preserve some energy for the later stages of the match.
Bedoya’s second-half goal put the Union ahead before Blake and the rest of the Union defense took control. The Jamaican international keeper finished with seven saves in a Man of the Match performance, giving the Union a first league win over NYCFC since Aug. 2018. Tuesday’s showdown will bring a different animal to the table for the Union, but Curtin admits it won’t be easy breaking them down.
“Inter Miami was playing some good soccer before the quarantine period, they played LAFC one of the best teams in our league and held them pretty well at their stadium,” Curtin said. “They also played well against D.C. United before a red card went against them. We played them in preseason so we’re familiar with them, they are very well coached and organized, and overall will bring a lot of intensity this time around.”
Like every team in Orlando, the Union suffered some injury setbacks to three of their forwards options, forcing others to step up last week. Kacper Przybylko played with Ilsinho in the Union attack, while Homegrown forward Jack De Vries made his MLS debut off the bench.
Sergio Santos, Andrew Wooten, and Michee Ngalina all suffered injuries in training, but since have been working to get back to fitness for Matchday 2. Santos impressed in the opening two regular season matches back in the Spring, while Wooten and Ngalina are lower on the pecking order at striker. Curtin gave updates on all three players with two group stage matches remaining against Inter Miami and Orlando City respectively.
“Michee [Ngalina] has returned to training,” Curtin said. “Sergio Santos has been fully in the past two days so he’ll be available for selection [on Tuesday night against Inter Miami CF]. [Andrew] Wooten is a little bit behind them but he’s getting closer and closer to returning to training.”
Diego Alonso’s side lost its opener to Orlando City, but should have defender Andres Reyes and striker Rodolfo Pizarro both ready to start after suffering injuries. Should the Union knock off the expansion side, they will take a major step towards qualification for the knockout round of the tournament.