Following a commanding, four-goal second half to kick off the season with a win over Columbus Crew at home, the Union travel to Miami to face a team looking to transition from big names to big results. You can this weekend’s match for free on the Apple TV app, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Phil Neville’s squad knocked off a confusing CF Montreal team 2-0 to open the season, though there were plenty of opportunities for both sides to own the match. After talking up a two-striker system throughout preseason, an injury to star attacker Leo Campana led Neville to roll out a 4-2-3-1 that leaned on a solid duo in central midfield to control tempo while the fullbacks created width.
New additions Sergii Krystov and Franco Negri added solidity to Miami’s back line against Montreal, but their bigger contribution came when the team was going forward. Krystov finished off Miami’s first by thunking the ball home at the back post from a corner kick, and his ability to find teammates in midfield meant his side could play up the right then rotate the ball back around to the left where Negri moved forward and allowed Rodolfo Pizarro to push high and inside underneath Josef Martinez.
Next For the U | Roadtrip to Inter Miami CF
So… Martinez. Obviously, one of the best strikers in MLS history is going to be dangerous, but it was clear the former Atlanta United superstar is still figuring out where to be in Miami’s buildups. He hasn’t fully recovered his video-game-level quickness, so instead Martinez tended to drop off the back line and get a touch in as the team moved into the final third before slipping in between defenders to find space in the box. Following Martinez’s movements will be crucial for Philly’s defenders since he’s the one player in the Miami eleven with a history of taking over games single-handedly.
The Union enter this match with a clear aim: Score early, and score often. Jim Curtin has a strong bench at his disposal, but he’ll likely lean on many of the same players he used opening weekend before turning to depth against Alianza on Tuesday. The goal is to overwhelm Miami, get a lead, then turn to Jack McGlynn, Joaquin Torres, and a slew of talented options off the bench to finish things off by holding more of the ball.
One tactical piece to watch early on is how high Philly meets Miami when the home side builds out of the back. Columbus was able to find pockets to build in because the Union met them very high and allowed a few extra yards between their lines. The Crew’s quick, organized passing had Philly chasing shadows during the opening half hour, but after adjusting and recognizing where Columbus had numbers, Leon Flach and Jose Martinez took over the midfield.
A key matchup to follow will be up the Union right where Ale Bedoya and Olivier Mbaizo will target space behind Negri with timed runs. Jose Martinez and Jack Elliott can pick out that space with ease, and as Julian Carranza peels back to the center, Bedoya and Mbaizo can create overloads and touch decisions that pull out center midfielders and leave space for superstar Daniel Gazdag.
Philly and Inter Miami face off at 7:30 p.m. ET live from Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, March 4. Watch live and for free on Apple TV.