The Philadelphia Union’s goal against Inter Miami in Saturday’s MLS home opener wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t Ezequiel Barco’s banger into the upper-ninety against Chicago nor Nani’s cheeky backheel against Kansas City. It didn’t have the rhythm of Christian Paredes’ winner against Houston.
In many ways it was an anti-golazo. But it still counts the same.
Jamiro Monteiro scored his third goal in three games since being handed the keys to the 10 position in his Man-of-the-Match performance against Deportivo Saprissa in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 two weeks ago. The Cape Verdean international has been the most consistent creative option going forward for the Union and has also demonstrated a willingness to get dirty. His goal against Inter Miami in the 54th minute magnified the good and the bad about the Union’s play in the final third: sometimes lifeless, other times disjointed, but capable of creating moments of brilliance with patience, ingenuity and grit.
The sequence began with Sergio Santos holding the ball up while dribbling across the top of the box, drawing multiple defenders. For the Brazilian striker, this wasn’t an ideal goal-scoring opportunity. Santos thrives on one-vs-one battles with space or pushing the back line with diagonal runs between defenders. In this situation, he maintained possession and continued to attack, but got caught with his head down, determined to score yet unable to recognize Monteiro and Bedoya as the better options.
The awkwardness between Santos and Przybylko is evident here as well. There was no attempt to combine between the pair, and I can’t recall many one-twos or short through balls in these tight spaces between them ever. As Santos prepared to shoot, Przybylko prepared for the rebound, a good sign, but he ended up getting into Santos’ shooting lane and took himself out of the play. It’s a quick exchange that represents a fraction of time, but if Przybylko peeled away to the back post he’d become an option and could still follow the shot while unmarked.
My criticism is more with his reactive nature, which makes him look sluggish and surprised instead of generating space with dynamic movements. The benefit in this situation is that after Przybylko drifted offside, the Miami defenders lost him when Leon Flach regained the ball.
Flach hasn’t proven to be much of an attacking threat in his first four games with the Union, but he displayed maturity for a 20-year-old in keeping the play alive and giving the Union a second chance. An immature player would have whipped the ball into the box for Santos or forced a cutter across traffic with both scenarios likely leading to a clearance and a counter-attack. Flach kept the ball in a dangerous situation and found Przybylko in a good shooting position, although the pass could have been better.
Alejandro Bedoya was the next moving part in this sequence. Denied a clear shooting position during the Santos shot attempt, Bedoya didn’t stay still and switch off but continued looking for the next pass. As Przybylko left the goal area, Bedoya took up that space in front and went unnoticed, anticipating a cross, a shot, or a deflection. In moving, he also left the penalty spot open for Monteiro.
The beauty in Monteiro’s finish came down to positioning and determination. By staying at the top of the box, he became lost in the chaos as the defensive line collapsed and found a good position to attack the ball moving toward goal. When the ball came across, he was the first player to react and continued to attack knowing he was about to get a studs-in challenge by multiple Miami defenders. The grit and conviction in which Monteiro finished the play was the mark of a Philly goal, one that won’t dominate headlines but still made a firm statement about his value in the box.
The Philadelphia Union this season in all competitions have now scored from one corner kick (Przybylko), one penalty kick (Monteiro), one cross and finish following possession to progression (Przybylko), and two counter-presses (Fontana and Monteiro). Against Inter Miami, Jamiro Monteiro scored a goal in its own column, unpredictable madness caused by confusion. Monteiro now has played a role in five of the Union’s six goals, earning the reputation of creator, finisher, and in this example—power forward. Somewhere, John LeClair is smiling.