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GOAT SMASH! Union Fall 4-1 to Messi and Friends

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Credit: Philadelphia Union

    The Philadelphia Union played a pre-Messi Inter Miami FC squad on June 24 and defeated them 4-1. The rebooted Inter Miami featuring Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino flipped that score on Tuesday evening in the Leagues Cup semifinals, defeating the Union 4-1 at Subaru Park in Chester and handing the Union their worst loss at home in nearly five years. The carnival atmosphere backed up traffic from the parking lots all the way back up the offramps from the Commodore Barry Bridge, causing a few entrepreneurs to walk up the ramps to cars stopped in traffic offering to sell Messi jerseys (authenticity far from guaranteed). Yes, Messi did have a goal in the match.

    The action started early in the 3rd minute for Miami when Sergii Kryvtsov sent a through ball from near midfield up to Josef Martinez up to the right side of the box that he quickly shot into the bottom left corner of the net to give Inter Miami an early 1-0 lead. The Union quickly countered with a chance in the 8th minute when Kai Wagner sent a through ball over to Daniel Gazdag who had a good run up to the center of the box but Drake Callender made a diving save to take the air out of the feisty Subaru Park crowd. In the 20th minute, Lionel Messi showed the Subaru Park crowd why he’s the GOAT. Josef Martinez sent a pass from midfield over to the left side where Messi was waiting. Messi sent a long distance shot from about 3 yards out, threading the needle into a tiny opening grazing Andre Blake’s fingertips to put the Union in a rare 2-0 hole. In stoppage time right before the half a similar sequence played out this time with Robert Taylor around midfield and sending a cross over to Jordi Alba pushing up the left side. Alba made his way to the center of the box before firing a shot into the bottom right corner to give Inter Miami a 3-0 lead at halftime. 

    The Union regrouped and played much better in the second half but just could not build much of a rhythm and missed several opportunities to climb back into the match. In the 55th minute the hero of Friday’s match Chris Donovan fielded a cross from Kai Wagner and had drawn Callender far outside the box and had control of the ball with an open look at the net but his shot went high over the crossbar. Donovan had another good look a few minutes later in the 60th with a header from the center of the box that Callender saved in the bottom left corner. Team Captain Alejandro Bedoya entered the game in the 70th minute for his first action in a month and had an immediate impact. In the 73rd minute a corner kick went into the scrum and found Bedoya into the center of the box to send a shot through traffic into the bottom right corner to cut the Union’s deficit to 3-1 and give the Subaru Park crowd a glimmer of hope. After Gazdag had another shot curl just outside the right post a few minutes later, Miami extinguished that glimmer of hope in the 84th minute. DeAndre Yedlin sent a through ball up to David Ruiz in the right side of the box who fired a shot past Andre Blake into the bottom left corner of the net to bring the final tally to 4-1. 

In the press room after the match, Alejandro Bedoya was humble about his goal, but happy it hit a sweet spot he usually likes: “It was just a corner kick. I like to go for the first post area and it bounced right there, honestly I don’t know how it wasn’t blocked. I think DeAndre (Callender) overstepped it or something…I just hit it, just tried to get it on target.” Bedoya also acknowledged the Union’s repeated letdowns in big matches, including MLS Cup last year and previous US Open Cup finals:

“A lot of soccer is just psychological. Before the game, once the game starts, during the game, killing games off…I think mentally we just need to be a bit sharper, a little bit better and just play a little bit braver. It is very disappointing but I think the second half the way we came out, I’ll give them credit for that, we showed some pride and I think that was more like us. We’ve got to get back to that.”    

Daniel Gazdag was at a loss for what went wrong in the first half saying, “It’s not easy to say. We’ve been scared a little bit by the names that Miami had, and obviously they have a good team now, but they’re not better than us by three goals.” Later adding, “They have a good team and they can go far if they get into the playoffs.” As for the upcoming match against Monterrey, Gazdag was optimistic, saying “It’s an important game, we are playing for the Champions League spot, so that’s important for the Union and for the cup, so it’s going to be a great game.” 

News and Notes:

  • This match was the worst home loss for the Philadelphia Union since they lost 4-1 to Montreal on September 15, 2018. It was also the first home loss with Andre Blake starting in net since a 2-0 loss May 1, 2021 to NYCFC. Prior to this match, all three Union losses at Subaru Park since then featured backup goalies (Orlando earlier this year during an international window, the 2021 Eastern Conference Covid Finals against NYCFC, and a September 3, 2021 loss to New England). 
  • Julián Carranza did not appear in the match after suffering a Grade 1 Hamstring strain against Queretaro. He was listed as available on the bench but Jim Curtin said after the match it was only for the scenario a last minute sub in the event of a shootout, otherwise he was not fit to play. 
  • Despite not playing, Messi exchanged jerseys with Carranza in the handshake line after the match as is his custom to do so any time he plays an opponent with an Argentinian player to exchange jerseys with his fellow countrymen. 
  • The Union will play next in the Leagues Cup Third Place match on Saturday August 19 at 6pm at Subaru Park against Monterrey FC who fell to Nashville SC 2-0 in the other semifinal match Tuesday. The winner of the third place game gets one of the three 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup slots awarded from this tournament. However, Monterrey has already clinched a CCC spot for finishing at the top of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura table so it is widely expected that they will rest multiple starters. All Leagues Cup matches are streamed on Apple TV+ MLS Season Pass. 

JD Walker is one of the co-founders of Stream Punk Entertainment and has covered the Philadelphia Union since 2022. He has a wide-spanning career with experience in a variety of roles inside and outside the world of sports including basketball operations, gameday entertainment, promotions, broadcasting, and finance. He’s a Jersey Shore native sprung from a cage on Highway 9, and loves to geek out on the business and legal side of the games we all love.

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