Preview: Union look to continue momentum against MLS newcomers

Inter Miami CF is not direct like previous big-money MLS newcomers Atlanta United and LAFC were when they entered the league. Both of those clubs sought to impose themselves on opponents from the start of each match and, largely, they had the talent to do so.

Miami’s roster is stacked with talent but they lack the supremely talented goalscorer to take the pressure off the rest of the team as they work out the ups and downs that a new club is bound to experience.

What about Rodolfo Pizarro? The Mexican playmaker darts between the lines and starts counterattacks with a speed that puts pressure on defenders. However, he is not Carlos Vela — that rare stunner who can both create and finish depending on who he’s playing with. Pizarro needs a finisher to pull eyes off of him and eventually Miami will get him one. But right now they have Juan Agudelo.

Playing off Agudelo, Miami’s transitions are direct in the classic long-ball-and-break sense. Agudelo knocks things down and Pizarro looks to push play forward in a hurry.

In back, Inter rotates between a back five and a back four. Playing with five offers more solidity since they don’t have the horses in midfield to dominate the central area even when they push an extra man out of the back. With five they can play out through the wings and let Pizarro search for pockets inside, a simple but occasionally effective approach that allows them to maintain defensive shape and still create in attack.

One tactic to watch is how Miami moves the ball from back to front. MLS veteran Wil Trapp is the deep distributor but if he’s closed out of a match — a duty that will likely fall to Brenden Aaronson — Miami lacks a consistent second option. When former Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez joins the team post-tournament, he will take part of the load off of Trapp’s shoulders. But for now, Andres Reyes and Nicolas Figal have to be able to connect balls between the lines. Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, and El Brujo Martinez will be lurking in midfield looking to pick balls off early and catch Inter out of shape.

Even off a huge win of NYCFC, the Union have questions in attack and defense. They generated few good chances aside from Bedoya’s gritty finish and Andre Blake had to be at his best to preserve the points. Part of the wobbliness can be ascribed to the heat and humidity, and part is due to a lack of match time as a group. Sergio Santos’ return to fitness will offer a new option — either off the bench or from the start — that can stretch Miami vertically, but attacking success will truly come down to creating turnovers high up the pitch and capitalizing in transition.

The Union and Miami take the pitch at 10:30 p.m. ET on TUDN and streaming live on Twitter for Philly’s second Group A showdown in the MLS Is Back Tournament.

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