Photo: Marjorie Elzey
The Philadelphia Union drew listlessly against 12th-ranked Inter Miami CF on a chilly night in Chester, PA, in front of a half-full Subaru Park on Wednesday.
Both sides showed fresh faces from their weekend games, with notable names missing the game entirely (Mikeal Uhre) or sitting on the bench (Deandre Yedlin) – the crowded part of the MLS schedule reared its ugly head.
Union started the game in a defensive shell, content to sit in midfield and let Miami try to pass them in hopes of the visitors making a mistake. However, the first shot of the evening came after a mistake of his own. Jack Elliot, playing as a defensive midfielder, was disowned on the wing and Miami followed suit. Andre Blake was up to the task, shortly afterwards the home side were just missing after a nice interaction on the left foot of Leon Flach.
Only some outrageous goalkeepers – a jump shot – kept the score.
Both teams woke up.
Another great performance kept the Union off the board in the 15th minute. Dániel Gazdag cruised around Miami like they were flamingo-colored traffic cones, turning his man in the six and trying to get his shot into the tiny angle that was presented to him. The chance was parried, but the Union began to turn the proverbial screw.
A cruel turnover from Kai Wagner, who missed Elliot in a crowded rondo down the left, undid that work and gave Miami a 2-on-2. Only Blake’s steady post kept the Union balanced. Jakob Glesnes took out a Union free-kick from 30 yards soon after, which resulted in Cory Burke winning a foul. The Norwegian glanced at the frame with an almostman of the world – inches away from selecting the top corner with a laser beam.
Minutes later, defensive pressure created another Union chance, but ended with Burke slamming a left foot shot straight at the keeper – another chance moments later, Gazdag’s, was cleared off the line. The game was sufficiently open.
A series of half-chances at either end ended with neither team scoring a shot on target, despite each having the ball in the box more than once, and the first stanza ended.
There were no changes at half-time, and the first chance of the second frame came 5 minutes after the whistle.
The Union switched off the fields with a throw on the left and Sergio Santos played Olivier Mbaizo on the wing. The right-back’s near post bang was hard and low but was saved. The home team pushed every inch of Subaru Park’s field, but Miami did their best to come through. In the 53rd minute their efforts were almost rewarded with a close shot that sailed over the bar.
End-to-end, Elliot ran a counterattack and tried to corner a first chance – it was wide, but neither team had gotten to a point: they had both decided they were here for three. Then Union won a foul just outside the Miami box thanks to timely interaction and Gazdag’s skillful positioning. Elliot and Wagner stood above it and it was the centre-back who rolled his ball into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Burke forced another dive save against another Union fight in the 63rd minute, just after Jim Curtin brought two subs from his bench and Phil Neville two of his own. Another pair of substitutions came before the 70th minute, Quinn Sullivan and Union killer Gonzalo Higuain. Both coaches wanted it, but it wasn’t clear that either team had enough in them to pull it off.
In the 78th minute, Paxten Aaronson won a free kick on the left. Wagner swung a ball to the six and Stuart Findley powered his header up. Time and time again, neither team inspired confidence that they would beat the other and the game was a wide open affair of failures that evolved along with the player’s energy meters.
A half chance for Miami in the 84th minute was hit 10 yards wide and 10 rows into the north end. A similar opportunity at the other end was slapped straight at a kneeling keeper at the near post. Aaronson fit into the narrative, dancing on top of the box – but also turning his ball into a buoy for the Delaware River.
The last 10 minutes of the game went with Union spinning the ball as many times as they had it. Also a barrage of chances close by and after the 90th minute shouldn’t be, a cross that darts in front of goal and a few more that are simply averted.
Union went unbeaten at home, but that stat felt more like a participant trophy to the home crowd – who booed their boys for the second time in four days.
- For all his quality as a central defender Jack Elliot is not a defensive midfielder. The Brit, playing in place of the suspended Jose Martinez, was fine – but left the Union without much connection between the lines and didn’t cover nearly as much ground as the Venezuelan.
- Stuart Findley reminded Union fans this week why he was signed in first place a year and a half ago: he’s a damn good centre-back who was among the team’s best players that night – chasing runners, deflecting attacks and maintaining his poise.
- Olivier Mbaizo had some of his worst minutes for Union Wednesday night. Again and again his decisions were wrong and his touch flawed – he missed half a dozen crosses that just went wide, let alone finding a teammate.
Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Stuart Findlay, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo (Harry, 62′)Jack Eliot (McGlynn, 82′)Alejandro Bedoya, Leon Flach (Aaronson, 62′)Daniel Gazdag, Sergio Santos (Sullivan, 70′), Cory Burke
Unused Subs: Freese, Real, Bueno, Turner, Craig
Callender, McVey, Sailor, Lowe (Yedlin, 63′)Ulloa, Herzog, Gregor, Mota (Lassiter, 63′)Taylor, Campana (Higuain, 70′)Vasilev (Rodríguez, 83′)
Unused subs: dos Santos, Jones, Allen, Quinteros, Adam
N / A
PHI – Flat (19′)
MIA – Duke (60′)