Recap by Chris Bratton
The Philadelphia Union spent most of Sunday night looking like a team that was playing in the Florida heat for the second time in four days. They spent much of the match looking sluggish and their play was often ineffective as a result.
However, they were able to pull off some of their patented 2021 late game heroics to ensure that they would leave Florida with at least a point.
After the undesirable result against Orlando earlier in the week, the Union made one major change to the starting lineup. Daniel Gazdag moved up to striker, pushing Sergio Santos to the bench. This allowed Jamiro Monteiro to move back into the 10 position and allowed Leon Flach to come back into the starting lineup.
Meanwhile, Miami was notably missing Rodolfo Pizzaro due to international duty while DP Blaise Matuidi started the match on the bench. Summer acquisitions Kieran Gibbs and Nick Marsman both appeared in the starting lineup while Indiana Vassilev was available on the bench.
Gazdag made his presence felt early as he lashed a hard shot on goal in just the third minute. For comparison, the Union didn’t get a shot on goal against Orlando until the second half.
Shortly thereafter, Jose Martinez was whistled for his first foul against Gonzalo Higuain. So everything was going according to plan for the Union. At least, it was at first.
The Union’s next chances came at the foot of Kacper Przybylko. A shot in the 8th minute went into the upper deck but another in the 14th minute was much closer. But he was unable to build on this momentum because of some activity on the other end of the pitch.
During an Inter Miami attack, Martinez crashed into Robbie Robinson inside the box. Martinez stayed down but Miami chose to continue to press the attack. Matt Freese eventually scooped up a shot from G. Higuain and allowed Martinez to get some medical attention. He was down for several minutes and the Union played with 10 men for a period while he recovered.
The Union narrowly missed opening the scoring just a short time later thanks to a beautiful moment between Montiero and Alejandro Bedoya. Montiero spotted the run of Bedoya and lofted a deep pass to the unmarked captain. Sadly, he just missed redirecting the ball into the net.
Things got quiet for a long stretch late in the first half as Miami focused on staying defensive and not giving the Union any easy chances.
Toward the end of the first half, it was Miami that was closest to scoring the first goal. A dicey moment in the 42nd minute lead to some calls for a handball on Kai Wagner, but those were waived off. Shortly after, G. Higuain slipped behind the Union defense and tried to send a ball to Kieran Gibbs at the far post, but Robbie Robinson collected the ball and missed his shot from an impossible angle instead.
That ended up being the last good chance for either team in the first half, and they headed to the locker room scoreless.
When the Union returned to the pitch for the second half, it was clear that someone needed to step up and make an impact if they were going to come away with a result. But the early moments of the half felt like a continuation of the first with the Union’s attack looking inconclusive at best.
Miami made the first change of the match in the 52nd minute as Brek Shea came on to replace Gibbs. Shea took over at left back and he quickly put his fresh legs to work ranging up and down the left side of the pitch.
As the hour mark approached, the Union continued to struggle with building their attack. Too many build-ups fell apart in the midfield and too few attacks in the final third resulted in anything that really troubled the Miami defense.
The Union finally made a change in the 62nd minute as Santos came on for Montiero. This substitution allowed Gazdag to move back into the midfield at the top of the diamond.
But this substitution didn’t seem to provide the spark that was needed. Santos was certainly game to make some runs and shots in the final third, but the Union midfield struggled to supply him with any solid opportunities. It didn’t help that the Union players looked gassed after playing another match in the Florida heat.
With the Union struggling to put away any opportunities, Miami decided to finally take one of theirs. This time it was G. Higuain who helped play Robinson through goal. Robinson was one-on-one with Freese at a tight angle and his hard shot deflected off of Freese’s outstretched glove and bounced into the back of the net in the 71st minute.
Miami smelled blood in the water after their first goal and they pushed hard for more. Robinson nearly had his second less than a minute later and G. Higuain was almost played through twice. Even Shea took a chance on goal and luckily his open shot from the top of the box was right at Freese.
Looking to get some fresh legs on the pitch,Curtin sent on Quinn Sullivan to replace Bedoya in the 76th minute. He followed this up with two substitutions in the 83rd minute as Ilsinho and Jack McGlynn came on for Mbaizo and Flach.
With the Union facing a second loss to Inter Miami, they pulled out all the stops offensively. The increased pressure didn’t take long to pay off as the Union found their equalizer in the 85th minute.
After a nifty give and go between Sullivan and Gazdag, Sullivan sent a low cross to Przybylko at the far post. Marsman got a hand on the ball, but Przybylko did just enough to pop the ball over the line.
Now it was the Union that smelled the blood in the water and they did what they could to find a winner. A got chance for Gazdag was whistled for a foul and shortly after that a McGlynn shot slid just wide. If the Union wanted a winner, they’d have to find it in the four minutes of added time.
Przybylko came the closest to finding the winner, but his header in the third minute of added time couldn’t find its way on frame. The final whistle blew with the teams still locked at 1-1.
- Obviously the draw is better than a loss, but the Union can’t let the exciting late equalizer distract them from the fact that tonight’s performance was lacking in so may different ways.
- The Union did manage to get some impressive performances from their young substitutes. The question remains, will this translate to more playing time in the future? Jim Curtin usually saves his substitutes for late in the match and doesn’t change up his starting XI unless his has to. So where will the minutes come from?
- Presumably the Union’s plan for after the match will include watching their teammates take on the USMNT in the Quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicking off at 10PM.