Inter Miami have not yet caught fire in MLS, but Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin is well aware of their potential threat.
David Beckham’s Inter have made a host of exciting signings – most notably former Juventus pair Blaise Matuidi and Gonzalo Higuain – but results are yet to follow. Miami are 13th in the East with just 11 games from 13 games ahead of facing the Union on Sunday.
The expansion club’s most recent match, as they wait on Higuain’s visa, was a humbling 4-1 home defeat to New York Red Bulls.
But Curtin is not taking Inter lightly.
“I think in our league, there’s no magic wand and things don’t just click instantly,” he said. “But you can see what they do on the field, what they’ve done off the field for the city of Miami. You can tell they’re building something special.
“It’s a really dangerous team, one that we respect a good deal. “When you analyze all the games Miami has played this year, I think they’ve been a very unlucky and unfortunate team.”
Curtin added the Union are planning to face Higuain, although it is not yet clear if he will be able to make his MLS debut this weekend.
“Gonzalo is doing the procedures to be available, but we still do not know what will happen for Sunday,” Miami coach Diego Alonso said. “He already knows the players, we have talked about how to play, and if he is available for Sunday, he will travel with us.
“We all know the quality that Gonzalo has and the commitment he has shown to the team. That makes us excited. He wants to help us to make history and be part of it.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Philadelphia Union – Jose Martinez
The Union did not land a shot on target in their goalless draw with FC Cincinnati, perhaps because holding midfielder Martinez was their keenest shooter, letting fly four times without luck. Philadelphia might prefer Martinez to stick to his all-action defensive game.
Inter Miami – Blaise Matuidi
As Higuain waits to make his debut, Inter need Matuidi to start seizing control of matches. He won less than half of his duels against the Red Bulls and completed just one tackle. Miami will hope for more up against Martinez.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Union have won their past three matches against expansion teams, including a 2-1 win over Inter Miami at MLS is Back. Philadelphia have suffered just one defeat in eight home matches against expansion sides (W5 D2), a 2-1 loss to New York City in 2015.
– Even with their draw at FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, the Union’s 25 points through 13 matches represents their best start to a season in their MLS history. After conceding five times in their first two matches this season, the Union have let in just six goals in their past 11 regular season games.
– Inter’s 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls on Wednesday was just their second defeat in six matches (W2 D2) in September. While it was their eighth defeat of the season, it was the first time in club history they had lost a match by more than a one-goal margin.
– The Union have outperformed their xG in both defence and attack this season, scoring 21 goals with an xG of 17.9 (+3.1, sixth-best in MLS) and conceding just 11 with an opponent xG of 16.4 (-5.4, third-best in MLS).
– Juan Agudelo scored Miami’s lone goal against the Red Bulls, his second straight match with a goal and the first time he has scored in consecutive MLS games since April 2017. He has scored in three straight MLS matches just once, between June and August 2013 with New England Revolution when the third game in that run came against the Union.