The Philadelphia Union opened their 2021 season with a draw at Columbus Crew SC. In their second game of the season, they welcomed Inter Miami CF to Subaru Park. In what was a tough fought game, the Union saw a second-half lead disappear inside of the last 20 minutes of the match. Defensive lapses down Philly in their first regular-season home loss since 2019.
Defensive lapses down Philly
In 2020 Subaru Park was a fortress for the Union; they lost no regular-season matches at home. This led to Philadelphia’s first-ever trophy win as they secured a 2020 Supporters’ Shield victory. Last night the Union unveiled banners commemorating that shield-winning team, and the 2021 team took the field in their electric new kit. Unfortunately, the team on the field was not as electric as their kit or as dominating as the 2020 side.
The Union had a clear game plan as the match kicked off. Philadelphia was going to start off fast. If they had possession they were looking to draw out the backline to find the gaps to create chances. When they didn’t have the ball they used their high pressing style of play to dispossess in good areas and create counterattacks that would give a numbers advantage to the Union. Inter Miami entered the match coming off of a bad home loss where their backline was disjointed and drawn out. Early on it was clear that Miami was much more disciplined in their positioning.
The first 20 minutes the Union was trying to press to create chances. Miami’s center backs didn’t expose themselves, and their midfield swarmed Philly when the Union tried to create those numbers advantages on the counter. There was no creative spark from the Union to create anything other than half chances in the first half. Since Miami did well in their organization, and the Union didn’t find ways to exploit Miami, the game changed.
For the last 25 minutes of the first half Miami were in control. They dominated possession, and were the only team with a real chance in the first half when Robinson stung the crossbar with a shot. The Union were able to create a few counter attacks and win some corner kicks but anything they tried to put on goal was ineffective. As the match went to halftime, the Union knew they needed to switch some things up in the second half to try and get all three points.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Union came out and looked to possess the ball. Miami was settled into the match, and it felt like if they were allowed to be on the ball that they would find the first goal and take the momentum of the match. The Union needed to find some interplay in their attack, and on one occasion they found a breakthrough.
Union goes up
Sergio Santos tried a shot that was blocked and deflected high in the air to Leon Flach. Flach found Kacper Przybylko in the box. Kacper was able to put the ball across the penalty spot to an onrushing Jamiro Monteiro. Jamiro hit the ball the first time and put it into the bottom corner of the net to give the Union the lead. With about 35 minutes left in the match, the Union was up and just needed to stay organized to get all three points.
Things fall apart
This did not happen, unfortunately, as Miami was able to create a few chances that were converted. Philly had two major defensive lapses that cost them all three points. After the Union went up a goal they pushed for a second, bringing on Cory Burke for his 2021 debut. This allowed Miami to have space for a counterattack once they dispossessed Philly. In the 73rd minute, Miami countered and won a free kick in a dangerous area. Federico Higuain sent a ball into the box and found his brother Gonzalo Higuain wide open after he lost his mark. Gonzalo headed home the chance and the game was tied.
The Union tried to counter this goal by bringing on Anthony Fontana and Ilsinho in the five minutes after the Miami equalizer. This didn’t provide the needed spark for Philly. Ilsinho in his 2021 debut only played 10 minutes as he seemed to aggravate an injury that made the substitute need to be substituted. Anthony Fontana was not playing in his preferred attacking midfield role instead he was a shuttler trying to provide some width in the attack. Both were ineffective in finding a winner and didn’t help solidify the defensive end.
Losing all three points
With only seven minutes to play Miami started another counterattack. A ball was played in behind the Union’s left side of their backline. There was no pressure put on the ball as Union defenders overshot the Miami player looking to block a cross that wasn’t yet coming. Once there was time to put in a cross, Federico Higuain drifted into the Union’s box. The ball was played to him and he nodded home the chance. No midfielder stepped to him to stop his run, and no defender saw him arrive late in the center of the box. Another easy chance converted by Miami. The Union tried to come back and tie the match, but once Ilsinho came out and homegrown Jack McGlynn in Miami sat deep to stop any chances.
The game ended 2-1 in favor of Miami. This was to the shock of a Union team that hadn’t lost at home in the regular season since 2019. This was a bad loss and one that Philly will need to get out of their heads quickly. They play two matches this coming week. Philly goes to Atlanta in CCL play Tuesday and welcomes NYCFC in MLS play Saturday. They will need to bounce back if they want to get this bad taste of this loss out of their mouths.
The Union fell to a talented Inter Miami side and gave some food for thought as they head into another busy time with CCL and MLS play on deck for this coming week. Here are three takeaways from this bad loss.
1. Union couldn’t sustain their style of play
Before the match, the Union was set up to execute their style of play. Miami’s center backs are prone to be drawn out when their team was pressed. In week one this left a lot of room in behind and out wide to create a numbers advantage. Philly’s game plan was to press high. Win the ball in dangerous areas and use that number’s advantage to create attacks.
Unfortunately, Miami swarmed the midfield which helped their center backs stay at home. Because of this, the Union found it difficult to find areas to create the attacks they wanted. Philly still had the quality to break down Miami a few times; one of which led to Jamiro Monteiro’s goal. However, without an out-and-out playmaking attacker, the Union was a bit predictable.
The Union had to commit numbers forward in the attack to get the chances they wanted, which played into Miami’s plans of countering. Both goals for Miami were started with counter attacks, and finished thanks to major defensive lapses by the Union.
2. Defensive lapses down Philly
The Union looked very disorganized when Miami was able to start their attacking sequences. Miami are a team built for counter attacking, but they also have quality attackers on their side. Give them a half chance or an open look and they will punish you. This was the case on both Miami goals.
The first goal started from a counterattack. The Union committed a dumb foul in a spot for a good free-kick. Gonzalo Higuain was able to tussle with Leon Flach causing the Union youngster to lose his mark. Gonzalo isn’t going to miss many free headers off a peach of a cross from his bother Federico. The second goal was another counterattack. Federico Higuain was allowed to enter the box late and no one picked him up. His longevity in MLS and quality attacking helped him put home the open chance. In both goals, the Union switched off defensively.
Defensive lapses happen in games, but where they happen matters the most. Losing the best player on Miami on a freekick, and not picking up a late run into the box are two huge mistakes. It cost the Union dearly this time, and it’s something this team will need to work on if they want to be a successful team in 2021.
3. One point from two matches doesn’t doom this team
Two games into the 2021 MLS season, the Union has as many points as they did from their first two matches of 2020. Both teams are obviously different; however, this one bad result does not doom this team. A win next weekend puts Philadelphia on par with a lot of other teams in the east as the season is still very young.
Should the Union get a win in week three, and have some other match results go their way they could move up toward the top of the eastern conference. While Philadelphia would have wanted to win the match on the night that they commemorated their 2020 Supporters’ Shield win, this early season loss could help spark this team onto greater things.
You know the saying: “It ain’t how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” The Union was punched in the teeth in their home opener. It was a bad loss that will leave a bad taste in the team’s mouth. How will they respond? They have to play at Atlanta in CCL play on Tuesday, and against an NYCFC team who scored five goals in week two on Saturday. Can the Union take this loss on the chin and come back to get positive results in two hugely important games?
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Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire