Look, sometimes a draws feel like a win and thanks to El Brujo’s 90th-minute screamer, which also goes down as the first goal in his MLS career, Union walk away from Orlando with a smile on their face after erasing a 2 goal deficit, earning them a point against an Eastern Conference opponent Wednesday night. Now they head back to Chester, PA where they’ll return to Subaru Park for the first time in 3 weeks to take on Inter Miami, a team that’s got eyes on it from every corner of the universe at the moment but is still struggling to make moves up the table.
Union vs Inter Miami preview
Saturday night will mark just the 8th meeting between Philadelphia Union and David Beckhams Inter Miami, but that doesn’t mean there’s been a lack of excitement between these two clubs in recent years. Most notably, Gonzalo Higuain’s MLS debut, when he sailed a penalty attempts over the bar and took his frustration out on a number of Union players, which may or may not have been sparked by Jakob Glesnes celebrating said penalty miss inches away from Higuain.
Regardless, these two teams produce close games. Inter Miami’s 2-0 win over Union earlier this season marked just the 2nd time in 7 meetings in which the game was won by multiple goals. Across 7 meetings, Union has the slight edge, with a record of 3 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses.
2023 MLS Season so far
Inter Miami is in one of the strangest positions I’ve ever seen an MLS team in – they’ve currently got a record of 5 wins, 0 draws, and 12 losses, which has them at 15 points through 17 games, in last place in the Eastern Conference, and just one point above the wooden spoon position of being MLS’s last-place club.
They’re on a six-game losing streak, are missing multiple key players to long-term injury, are 3rd worst in goals scored, 8th worst in goals conceded, have the worst expected goals total in the league, allowing the 4th most shots on the league, and haven’t taken the least amount of shots of any team.
Inter Miami is in a really bad spot, all the while, they’re awaiting the arrival of one of the best players of all time, Lionel Messi. Messi’s impact on the game is undeniable, and his impact on MLS is already looking to be immense, but can he make enough of an impact to get Miami out of the depths of the MLS table? He might not have to do it alone, with additional European talent being rumored to be on the way to South Florida this summer as well.
It’s impossible to know for sure what kind of impact Messi and co will leave on soccer in America when all is said and done, but anyone hoping to get a first glimpse of the spectacle Saturday will have to wait, as Messi isn’t set to make his Inter Miami debut until later this summer.
So let’s take a look at who on the field might be able to make a difference for Miami on Saturday night. In terms of goal scoring, it’s Josef Martinez leading the charts for Inter Miami with 4 goals in 15 appearances this season.
Chance creation-wise, Jean Mota is leading Inter Miami with 4 assists, and Deandre Yedlin is credited with having 3 assists per the MLS website. Jean Mota really is the one pulling the strings at the moment though, leading the team in expected assists, passes into the final 1/3, passes into the penalty area, progressive passes, and goal-creating actions.
For Miami’s X-Factor, I’m going to go with the guy I just spent time talking about, Jean Mota. I don’t necessarily think he’s going to be the one to hurt you on the score sheet, but the battle against Inter Miami typically comes in the midfield. And while they’re missing some key pieces in the midfield like Gregore, it’s still an important spot on the field to win for Miami, and Union will need to work hard to neutralize that, or even win that fight themselves.
For Union, I’m going to go with a guy that didn’t feature on Wednesday but should be back in the lineup on Saturday in Daniel Gazdag. While he might have a bit of a slower season thus far in comparison to his MVP-worthy performance of last year, Gazdag has still been pitching in to get Union results and it feels like he could be on the verge of finding his best form again soon. He’s got 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games, and returning home might be exactly what he needs to get back on the scoresheet once again.
No matter what, Daniel Gazdag is a pretty sure shot from the penalty spot, having never missed from the mark in MLS regular season play.
Here we go again, trying to predict lineups with a number of players missing! So first let’s start with who’s NOT available – I believe the only names that will be missing on the list are Andre Blake and Damion Lowe, still with Jamaica for international duty for a number of games. Andres Perea missed the last game due to injury, and we’ll have to wait to hear from Jim’s press conference or the availability report to get an update on Perea’s health. Other than that, Union should be good to go.
While I really love the 3-5-2 formation Union has found home in over the last 8 games or so, the absence of Damion Lowe makes that tactic a little bit harder to pull off. We’ve seen a few different iterations of the 3 back system, one with Wagner playing CB and Matt Real playing Left back, one with Nate Harriel playing as the 3rd center back, and you’ve got to think, at some point, we’re going to see Brandon Craig as the 3rd CB in the 5 back system.
Coming off another really impressive outing with the USMNTs U20s, it feels like Craig is deserving of some meaningful minutes with the first team, but Wednesday night on the road against Orlando was definitely too deep of waters to throw the homegrown in. Could Saturday at home against the last-place team in the east pan out to be a better option for Craig to see the field? Possibly, but I’m still not sure that he’ll start. And most of that is due to the reintegration of Union captain Ale Bedoya.
Ale Bedoya got his first minutes back on the pitch since May 17 on Wednesday night after missing the last handful of games with an injury. Union has faired well without their Captain, going 4-1-1 in the 6 games without Bedoya, but I’m sure Union will be happy to welcome their leader back to the starting XI, especially with Andre Blake still out. The vocal leadership is something Union could really use across the next couple of games while he’s out. Because of that, I think Union will go back to the 4-4-2 diamond for the second game in a row.
Bendik in net, Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, and Mbaizo backline, with Jose Martinez in the defensive midfield position, with Jack McGlynn and Ale Bedoya as the shuttlers, with Daniel Gazdag in the 10. Mikael Uhre and Juliana Carranza round out the starting XI up top.
As far as on-field predictions, this really has to be a game in that Union comes out with 3 points, despite missing Andre Blake and Damion Lowe. Miami has lost 6 straight, is struggling to find the back of the net, only scoring 3 goals in their previous 5 MLS matches, and are suffering through multiple big injuries until Lionel Messi comes to the rescue. On top of that, Union are back at home, a place in which they’ve lost just once over the last season and a half, and counting.
Coming out with less than 3 points on Saturday night would probably feel like a disappointment, and it’d be one of those games where a draw feels more like a loss than a win, Union should be able to take care of business, even being short-handed, and I think they’ll take this one by a score of 2-0, with goals by Juliana Carranza and Daniel Gazdag. I’m looking for the backline to erase the few lapses in focus they had Wednesday night and to protect Joe Bendik to the fullest.
Even though Miami will be Messi-less, Subaru Park is looking at a sellout Saturday night, and I’d highly recommend getting down to Chester to catch the action in person. But if you can’t, be sure to tune in on MLS season pass via Apple TV on Saturday night at 7:30 pm est
Be sure to return to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!
Follow our Union team on Twitter:
Doop on Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union