Now that’s how you kick off a season. In a shock to no one who follows the league, the Philadelphia Union started their 2023 season with a resounding 4-1 victory at home against the Columbus Crew. The stadium was bursting with anticipation after the 2022 season which saw the team fall just short of lifting the MLS Cup. Despite all the energy, it was Columbus who got off to a hot start, pressuring the Union and forcing them to play more of the long ball/route one strategy. This relentless press got to the Union and forced the team into conceding an own goal to go down 1-0.
Philadelphia Union-Inter Miami preview
The Union did get on the board however when the first of two VAR decisions went their way to award a penalty kick after the VAR official determined that there was a handball offense. Daniel Gazdag dispatched the PK to put the team’s level at one going into the half. The second half was absolutely tilted to the Union. Not even a few minutes into the half, Julian Carranza put away a very tight angled shot past the young Crew keeper to go up 2-1 and the Union did not look back.
The second of two VAR calls went the Union’s way resulting in another PK, which Daniel Gazdag cooly slotted home for his second of the game. Carranza finished things off with an insanely beautiful move and pass from newcomer Joaquin Torres, who had just come on the field moments before.
After a great result like that, the Union now heads on the road for the first time this season. They will head down to the Sunshine State to take on Inter Miami. These teams faced off twice last season with a 0-0 draw in Chester and the Union taking the road result in Ft Lauderdale 2-1. Let’s take a look at how Miami did in their first game, a player to watch out for, and a prediction for an early-season Florida matchup.
2023 MLS Season
Inter Miami had a pretty solid 2022 MLS season. In something that no one predicted to start the season, Inter Miami squeaked into the playoffs. With a record of 14-14-6 for fourteen wins, fourteen losses, and six draws, they managed to finish in sixth place in the Eastern Conference where they went on the road to face NYCFC.
They, unfortunately, got dispatched pretty handily in that game, but it was a true testament to Phil Neville’s coaching that they were even there in the first place. Led by Gonzalo Higuain, Alejandro Pozuelo, and Drake Callender, they managed to rise up those rankings and give the Eastern Conference a lot to think about going into the 2023 season.
Inter Miami got off to the start of the 2023 season that they surely wanted. Hosting a very much weakened CF Montreal side, they came into this game feeling like they could make a push up the Eastern Conference. They thoroughly dispatched CF Montreal 2-0 in a game that was much further apart than the scoreline indicated. Montreal truly didn’t seem like much of a threat to the Miami goal and despite the pregame injury to Leo Campana, Miami managed to walk away with the victory.
The player that the Union needs to watch out for is someone who is on the rise and could take that next step in their career this season if all goes well. With a knack for getting into the tough areas and flexing a bit of their creativity, Bryce Duke is a player who the Union will absolutely need to watch out for.
Coming over from LAFC last season, people were unsure of how to perceive this move and to what extent Duke would make an impact. In a surprise to most, he played in twenty-eight games, sixteen of which were starts, Duke contributed one goal and seven assists. While this might not seem like much to most, this is the most amount of the games that Duke has received so far in his short pro career.
Coming into his fourth season as a young professional, one would expect Duke to grow in his creative abilities and show why there were some rumors about him in the offseason. This is a player that the Union needs to be very careful about. He has the creativity to start the counterattack and the subtleness to make those late runs into the box, creating havoc for the defense.
If the Union can shut things down as they did with Zelarayan and Cucho last week, they should be in good shape. But we will see if Bryce Duke has anything to say about it whether it be as a starter or off the bench as he did in the game against Montreal.
This will be the first road test of the season for the Union before they go on the road for their CCL matchup versus Allianza. It will be interesting to see if Jim Curtin rotates any players for this game in anticipation of the CCL match ahead. I do not foresee any rotation to start the game but if the team can go up a couple of goals, then things might change. Miami will be looking to continue their impressive play after the result against Montreal, but I think this Union team will be a much different test than anything Montreal could have provided.
We saw a Union side that may have started a bit slow, but once they got into gear, they shredded the Columbus defense and this is where I think the Union has the advantage. Their ability to turn the game into an absolute slaughter is something that we only started seeing last season and it continued into this season. In preparation for the CCL matchup against Allianza, I think the Union go down to Ft Lauderdale and put up a 3-1 victory versus Inter Miami. Game time on Saturday is 7:30 pm.
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