The Philadelphia Union take on Inter Miami tonight at 10:30 p.m. in their second match of Group A play in the MLS is Back Tournament. The Union are tied atop the group with Orlando City SC, as both won their first matches. For the Union they will have their eyes on their match with an interesting Inter Miami side who are still looking for their first ever win in MLS.
Tonight the teams in Group A will be the first full group to play their second matches in the group stage of the tournament. Orlando and Philadelphia are in unique positions to get to the knockout rounds after the matches finished tonight. For both teams in a position to make it to the knockout rounds, they’ll need to win. This is something that could happen for both teams, but it feels like the Union has a huge opportunity here. Let’s preview the action that is going to go down tonight and answer the question, could the Union be through to the knockout rounds by the end of matchday 2?
NYCFC v.s. Orlando City
The first match of the night for Group A features a strong NYCFC team and a scrappy Orlando City in sort of reverse roles. Usually, coming into this match the team from the New York City would be seen as the team with the upper hand. Right now, Orlando has the upper hand with having three points in the bag in this tournament. This should make NYCFC turn into a hungry team, which may be a breath of fresh air.
When NYCFC play hungry, they tend to dominate possession and frustrate their opponents. With their backs against the wall in a match where a result is needed, New York will likely need to play this way. If they can get under the skin of the Orlando players they will be able to get more set pieces and opportunities to score. Should NYCFC be able to string some passes together, and find their finishing boots, then they will be able to get their first points of not just the MLS is Back Tournament, but of the 2020 MLS season
On the flipside, Orlando is in the driver’s seat. The “hosts” of this tournament now have to put their money where their mouth is in a match against the reigning eastern conference champions. The Lions will have to do what they did against Miami to have success; which is, making their opponent pay for giving up possession in the middle of the field. Orlando has a decent attack in those transition moments. If NYCFC is pressing and have a loose pass that’s intercepted they could be in trouble. Can Orlando’s grit and standing be enough to halt the power and high-caliber nature of NYCFC? We’ll have to wait and see.
Philadelphia v.s. Miami
The second match of the group is one where there are two teams that are in extremely different positions. The Union has created a strong, organized system of play; Miami is still a new expansion team who is looking to figure out who they are.
Let’s start with looking at Miami. They have yet to figure out the correct pieces to give them their first points and win in their MLS life. They play an interesting style of a 3-4-3 that allows for their wingers to shift to wing backs if they need to defend deep. This is how Miami will look to beat the Union tonight. If they can condense themselves and then spring a counter attack when they dispossess philadelphia will be key. To that end Miami will need Rodolfo Pizarro to be the magic man for them. Without a star goalscorer, Miami will have to lean heavily on Pizarro to set up or score goals and power them to a possible result.
On to Philadelphia. The Union’s formation and quick countering style of play could cause a lot of issues for Miami. Inter Miami really struggled with Orlando’s ability to change the pace in the middle of the field shifting from defense to offense. The Union’s midfield of Aaronson, Monteiro, Bedoya and Martinez are fast and shifty. If they can spring attacks for players like Przybylko, Ilisinho or Sergio Santos. Then the Union could score many goals.
This match is one that could be determined in the fine margins. With both teams looking for a counter attack, this match could tip on a successful string of passes coming from a change of play.
For more of a preview on this match, check out the latest youtube preview from El Parcero Philly and the latest Doop by the River Podcast:
Five things to watch in both matches:
- How will NYCFC react to now being an underdog?
New York will not want to be 0-4 on the season, and likely a long shot to make the knockouts of the MLS is Back Tournament. Can they embrace being the underdog in match where a result is needed against a team like Orlando City? They probably should, but 2020 has been an upside-down year, so who knows.
- Can Orlando grind their way to another win?
Orlando shocked many with their ability to find a way to win in their first match. Their grind it out style does not usually pay dividend this way, but could we see this Orlando team embrace that and turn a corner? It is Orlando, but could that stigma go away in this tournament?
- Will Philly build off of their impressive win?
The Union is looking like the best team in Group A. Their structure and style of play have helped them see success year over year for the past three seasons. Are we possibly seeing the blossoming of a championship competitor? They will need another three points to help answer that question.
- Could Miami’s structure stifle the Union?
Miami is likely going to condense themselves when they don’t have the ball to stifle the Union. This paid off for teams in the 2019 season against Philadelphia. While stifling the Union is important, they will need to find a way to score more than one goal to get their first points.
- Sergio Santos is the key for the Union
A player who was a scratch in the first match, Sergio Santos is the key to the Union taking things to that next level. Santos is cleared to play in this match, will his contribution come from the start, or will Santos be reduced to a supersub role? Either way, his style of play and contributions to this team will be something to watch for sure!
Answering the question
Can the Union win their match? Yes! There are two ways this could happen.
The best-case scenario is for Orlando to drop points to NYCFC. With New York losing their first match and Orlando winning, the Union will want the avenue for them to win the group to be clear. For this to happen the Union would need a win and for either an NYCFC win or for New York and Orlando to draw.
Will that happen? I think so. The Union are a better team than Inter Miami. Jim Curtin will have his squad organized and raring to go over the young disjointed Miami side. I see the Union winning 2-1 over Miami, and for NYCFC and Orlando to draw 1-1. This result will make Philadelphia the first team to clinch a spot in the knockout rounds with a match still to play and will give them a stronghold on the group with a two-point gap over Orlando.
If Orlando finds a way to win, that is okay too for Philly. As long as the Union wins their match they are guaranteed a spot in the knockout rounds and the final group match against Orlando becomes an all-out blood bath of a match to see who wins the group.
Don’t miss any of this action tonight! Both of these matches will be on TUDN, and if you don’t have that station, tune in to their livestreams via Twitter. You can find those streams here:
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports