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Union drop home opener to Inter Miami with disappointing second half

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The Higuain brothers staged the comeback win for the visitors in what was the Union’s first regular season loss at home since 2019

Morgan Tencza

It all seemed to be going the Philadelphia Union’s way in the second half. After a first half full of open ended play bookended by good defense, the Union looked to have the opposition running in the second half up 1-0. It looked like business as usual, picking up on last year’s strong form at home. Instead, two backbreaking goals from a pair of brothers put a damper on the drizzly home opener.

The big change for the Union going into their home opener was the insertion of Sergio Santos into the starting lineup. After missing much of the preseason with a toe injury, the Brazilian forward received his first start of the season, replacing Anthony Fontana. Fontana would start the match on the bench, with Jamiro Monteiro and newcomer Leon Flach retaining their roles in the midfield.

While not able to generate much in the final third to start, the Union were treated to a plethora of set piece chances early in the game. The Union had multiple corner kicks in the first 16 minutes that wouldn’t result in a goal.

The action to start the match mostly was reserved for set pieces and midfield play, but the first real dangerous chance of the match for either side came in the 13th minute. Miami midfielder Blaise Matuidi played a beautiful ball into the box, but the Union were able to defend well for a goal kick.

Fans in Subaru Park held their breaths in the 19th minute. A rare mistake from center back Jakob Glesnes right outside of the home team’s box fell right to the foot of Miami midfielder Robbie Robinson. After a nice bit of skill, the 22-year-old American struck the crossbar with a thunderous blow. Every fan and player backing the Union breathed a sigh of relief.

In the 27th minute it was the Union’s chance now for a dangerous opportunity. Leon Flach, who was having a fantastic game defensively, played in a cross from the left hand side that found Alejandro Bedoya. The ball would eventually find Sergio Santos, but the it would ricochet off of a Miami defender into the safe hands of Miami goalkeeper John McCarthy. Flach would put in another dangerous cross to Bedoya in the 40th minute, but nobody was in the box to follow up Bedoya’s header.

Santos threatened the Miami defense once again two minutes later, with a nice run into the box that resulted in the Brazilian being brought down. The referee determined it was clean, but gave Matuidi a yellow card for his earlier challenge on Kacper Przybyłko. Despite the numerous fouls from both teams, this would be the only booking of the first half.

The half would end deadlocked at 0, neither side having many clear-cut chances. The biggest chance of the match so far was that near goal from Robinson, but overall most teams defended extremely well in their own boxes. The Union dominated the set pieces with five corners, but were unable to capitalize.

The start of the second half was all Philadelphia Union, settling into the opponent’s half and looking to break down the Miami defense. After knocking on the door, the Union finally broke on through to the other side in the 54th minute. Leon Flach on the left side of the penalty box calmly found Kacper Przybyłko to his right. Kacper would center it and find Jamiro Monteiro flying into the box for the goal, the first goal of the Union’s 2021 MLS campaign.

Inter Miami would find a way to level up the scoring in the 73rd minute. A free kick coming from the right side of the box serviced by Frederico Higuain found his younger brother Gonzalo in the box. From that range and in the air, Gonzalo Higauin rarely squanders his chances, powering a header into the bottom right corner to tie it up for the visitors.

Both sides over the next 10 minutes searched for the goal that would earn them the three points, and much to the horror of the fans in attendance, it would be Miami that found the winner. Not to be outdone by his little brother, Frederico Higuain would put Inter out in front in the 82nd minute.

An errant throw in from the Union in the opposition’s half set the stage for a South Beach counterattack. A nice bit of play on the right side of the field disorganized the Union’s defense, giving the visitors a run into the box. Figal would find the elder Higuain on the end of a cross for the winner. Gonzalo would try to top his brother once again in the 86th minute, and would have done so too if it weren’t for a fantastic Andre Blake save.

Try as they did, the Union were unable to mount a comeback in the last 10 minutes of the match. With desperation long balls into the box, Philadelphia were not able to solve the Miami defense a second time.

Nobody ever hopes for a winning streak to end, but eventually all streaks come to a close. For the Union, tonight was their first regular season loss at home since their 2-1 loss to NYCFC all the way back in October 2019. The Union have to regather themselves quickly, with their quarterfinals match in the Concacaf Champions League first leg against Atlanta United on Tuesday right around the corner.