By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
The Union started off their road trip to Florida with an atrocious 2-1 loss against Orlando City SC, but will be looking to bounce back into second place against Inter Miami, who currently hold the worst record so far in MLS (2-8-2; 8 points).
The biggest talking point from the Union’s loss against Orlando was the finishing (or lack thereof). It has long been a criticism of the Union’s forwards that they take too many touches when they get within scoring range, and their intensity and pressure on the ball is not nearly enough to produce goals. Oftentimes, a fire won’t be lit under the offense until they’re losing, and even then, as evidenced against Orlando, it isn’t always enough.
Because of Miami’s abysmal record, it’s looking likely that more young players will make the starting lineup, giving the regular starters a much-needed rest. Jim Curtin acknowledged that while the experienced players (Alejandro Bedoya in particular) make invaluable contributions to the squad, they can’t be expected to give perfect performances every single week.
“Ale’s our captain, he’s our leader—we’ve got to be smart, though,” Curtin said in a pre-match press conference. “In this type of climate, where he’s just trying to push so hard, you can kind of, you know, reach for a ball that maybe you shouldn’t, and you can damage yourself and you can hurt yourself. So we’ll be proactive in that regard.”
The good news, though, is that it’s looking some of the Homegrown players that traveled with the squad will finally get a chance to start a game, hopefully replicating their immediate impact off the bench in previous games. Quinn Sullivan had arguably the most influence on the Union’s offense in the game against Orlando, despite only playing 21 minutes.
Curtin stated that he would “put a team out on the field that is fresh, that’s ready to go—but also one that has to win a game. That’s the bottom line.”
Predicted Lineup: Joe Bendik, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Matt Real, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Paxten Aaronson, Jamiro Monteiro, Quinn Sullivan, Kacper Przybyłko
- Matt Freese hasn’t exactly been impressing in his starts as goalie, so it would be wise for Curtin to give Bendik another look in the starting lineup. Real is a set of fresh legs in the right back position, giving Olivier Mbaizo a much-needed break. Flach has more than proven himself to be worthy of a regular starting position, but he will especially be needed to give a noticeably exhausted Bedoya a break as well. Sullivan came on for Sergio Santos against Orlando, providing an invigorating spark in front of the goal, so it could be beneficial to start him instead of Santos (although Sullivan is more of a true midfielder). Finally, Aaronson needs a start to show what he can do. Curtin needs to show faith in Paxten the way he did with Brenden if there’s any hope of the younger Aaronson replicating his brother’s success.
Score Prediction: There are surefire wins in MLS, but Miami has been floundering since beating the Union earlier in the season. With fresh players that are rested, energetic, and ready to give their all for 90 minutes, it’s hard to envision the Union losing. This youthful energy will gift the Union a 3-1 win over Miami.