The Union lost at Orlando City 2-1 this past Thursday, even though they played well in the match. There’s no time to hang heads and dwell on the what-ifs of that match. Now it’s time to look ahead to the weekend’s clash. Philadelphia stays on the road in Florida taking on Inter Miami on Sunday night. The Union takes on last-place Miami in hopes of bouncing back fast in an eastern conference that’s standings is becoming tighter and tighter after each match.
Union take on last-place Miami
Despite the Union falling midweek. They are still a top-three club in the eastern conference. The same can’t be said about Inter Miami. Miami has just eight points on the season from 12 matches played. That is the worst record in MLS. Their two wins and two draws came early in the season; this is a team that has taken zero points since May 16th.
Miami is currently on a six-game losing streak that stretching back to May 22. In that time Inter Miami has scored just one goal and conceded thirteen. Things are not going well at all for David Beckham’s boys in Miami. They built a roster around old DP’s who are past their playing prime. Their younger players brought in either haven’t hit or regressed heavily. Not to mention, that this team was also caught cheating the rosters rules last season as well. This team is in shambles at the moment.
While Miami did get a win early in the season against the Union up in Chester, these two teams went on completely different paths since that night in April. The Union is still looking like a side that can compete for the top of the east. This next match against a weakened Miami side, who lost 5-0 to New England midweek presents the perfect opportunity for Philadelphia to bounce back after some up-and-down performances.
Three keys to a Union bounce-back win
The Union has yet to build an unbeaten streak in these summer months. Now in the dog days of summer is when things start to get serious. Teams records start to show who may be up at the top of things as the season inches closer to its second half. The Union needs to start one of those long unbeaten runs should they want to keep pushing for the top of the eastern conference. This game against Miami could do just that, and give a bounce-back win to boot.
There are three keys to a Union bounce-back victory in this match against lowly Miami. The Union’s attack needs to run at Miami’s center backs, their midfield needs to dominate the game, and Philly’s backline needs to do a better job communicating.
1. Run at Miami’s center backs
Why is it so important to run at Miami’s center backs? Well, they played four of them in their last match. Yes, you read that right, Miami played a back four of all center backs in their loss to the New England Revolution Wednesday night. It was a blood bath as New England’s wingers burnt Miami’s wide centerbacks to create dangerous chances for their clinical central attackers.
Philly won’t play with wingers, but the attacking three of Santos, Przybylko, and Gazdag as well as the shuttles and bombing fullbacks will have to stretch the field if Miami comes out and does this again. If this happens the Union should have no problem creating chances as they have in their previous two matches.
2. Dominate the midfield
This is sort of a no-brainer, key to victory and it’s one the Union does well in a lot of matches. Their midfield diamond allows Philly to be compact and not allow the opposition to move the ball through the middle of the pitch. The Union can definitely do this against an Inter Miami midfield that loves to use two deep-lying midfielders and a number 10.
The Union will always have one more player in midfield than Miami will, and this will force Miami to try and play through balls out wide to their wingers who have not been able to get much going this season. The plan will be for the likes of Gazdag, Monteiro, Bedoya, Flach, Martinez, or whoever else makes up the midfield diamond to put pressure on the ball in the middle of the park and create turnovers to spring counter-attacks.
3. Communicate on the backline, sticking to the mark
There’s no denying that the Union has a tendency for a mental lapse in a crucial moment. We’ve seen it now since they have returned from the international break. Whether it’s early on in matches when the team isn’t fully ready, or later on in the game when there’s a miscommunication or mismarking. The Union needs to be better at this, and it comes down to putting the practice into execution.
The main issue that I’ve seen recently has been the communication on the backline. Let’s take the last match for example. Mabizo lost his mark on the first goal for Orlando, and no one communicated to him that he had his man on his back shoulder in on goal. It’s the whole backline’s flat for that goal, while Mbaizo lost his mark, his center backs and goalkeeper need to be shouting at him that his man was on his back shoulder. If the Union can correct these little mistakes against Miami. It could be a building block moving forward along with three points coming home.
The east is getting tighter… The margain for error is lower
With their midweek loss to Orlando and New England kicking Miami’s teeth in, the Union now slide to third place in the east. They’re three points behind Orlando and seven points off New England’s first-place pace. This is by no means a bad spot for Philly to be in. However, the rest of the east is also closing in on them.
Nashville is even on points with Philly but the Union has more wins giving them the tiebreaker. Montreal, Columbus, and NYCFC are all one win away from either tying or overtaking Philly on points. The margin between second place and seventh in the east is five points. If the Union wants to stay above these other teams, then they will need to win the games that they should win.
No discredit to Miami’s effort, but this is a match the Union should win. I expect the Union to win 2-0. No matter the scoreline, if the Union cannot find a way to win against the worst team in MLS, then the expectation will likely drop from competing for the top of the east to competing for a playoff spot. That surely can’t happen with this talented team, right?
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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH