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Union defender Kai Wagner reflects on NYCFC, prepares for Inter Miami FC

After coming off of a strong performance against New York City FC, Union leftback Kai Wagner shares his thoughts on his return from injury and his team’s path to success in the MLS is Back Tournament.

New York City FC v Philadelphia Union - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Union weren’t supposed to play Inter Miami FC on Tuesday night, however, after Nashville SC was removed from the tournament with multiple players testing positive for COVID-19, the Union ended up with a schedule change just a few days before their match.

The team now looks to improve to 2-0-0 in tournament play tonight and a key factor to their success will be defender Kai Wagner, who, after spending six months nursing an injured leg, returned to play against NYCFC for a full 90-minute match on Thursday.

After the win, Wagner felt confident is his team’s ability to continue their success and push themselves against better teams.

“Yeah, I mean you know when you have like a shootout in the first game against one of the best teams of the league then it’s, it’s a great feeling,” he said.

For Wagner, just being able to play with his team again at full strength was incredible after months of hard work to get back to health.

“Man, I felt really good I was really happy to play this game,” he said on a Zoom call with media on Sunday. “I was waiting for a very long time for my first game in the year.”

Even with the excitement of his return to play, Wagner still had to deal with the new 9 a.m. kickoff, something that he found strange.

“I mean the 9 a.m. game was a little bit wild for all of us,” he said.

Tonight’s match against Inter Miami will take place at 10:30 p.m., a time slot that, while difficult, Wagner says is expected.

“This 10:30 game is also the same thing,” he said. “But, in a normal season, we would not play at this time so everybody knew that we will go through this.”

Wagner doesn’t find himself worried about the change of schedule, however, he does recognize the difficulties that come with preparing against any team, especially after a statement win. The team had training sessions starting at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.

“Y’all can get like a little bit of confidence, but not too much because Miami will be completely completely another team and we have to manage this too,” he said.

Despite the difficulties of preparing for a team like Miami, a team new to Major League Soccer, Wagner has a plan to win.

“We have to keep the zero, and then we just have to score a goal,” he said.