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Odds taken from bet365.
Unbeaten in seven games across all competitions, Philadelphia Union are eagerly waiting to clinch their first-ever competitive club football tournament trophy. They had a glorious opportunity to make the MLS Cup their first piece of silverware towards the end of last season. But, they finished second best in the playoff final against Los Angeles FC – who lifted their maiden league title.
The struggle in the MLS for Inter Miami has been quite painful for the players, coaching staff, and fans. However, the immaculate signings of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba have completely changed the side’s gameplay. The situation has changed so much that Inter Miami are now known as the top favorites to win the 2023 Leagues Cup, and spectators have forgotten that this is the same side that is rooted to the bottom of the MLS table.
Philadelphia Union are merely two steps away from glory in a competition where almost all the top favorites have been knocked out before the semifinals. However, they are up against a renascent Inter Miami side that shares the same goal as the Union. The crunch encounter between these two clubs will be extremely close, and the outcome will either be decided by a very slender margin or maybe even on penalties.
There is not a lot of history between these two sides, as they have only met each other eight times in the past. Philadelphia Union have a slightly better record as they have won half of the eight encounters.
Meanwhile, Inter Miami have only been victorious on two occasions. Incidentally, their first win against the Philadelphia Union came at Subaru Park. A Gonzalo Higuain brace in the final quarter of the match turned the game on its head and gave the visitors a vital victory.
After that, the Floridian club traveled to this venue twice. The encounter last year ended in a goalless draw, and earlier this year, goals from Jakob Giesnes, Julian Carranza, Leon Flach, and an own goal from David Ruiz gave the Union a big win.
However, the MLS giants could not complete the season double over Inter Miami. Corentin Jean and Robert Taylor scored as the hosts nabbed their first win with a clean sheet over Philadelphia Union at the DRV PNK Stadium.
After entering the MLS mid-season break with two back-to-back wins over Nashville SC and New York City FC, the group stage of the 2023 Leagues Cup felt like a cakewalk for Philadelphia Union.
They were grouped with two Liga MX sides – Club Tijuana and Queretaro FC. They nabbed a comfortable 3-1 win over the former before destroying the latter 5-1 and qualifying for the knockout stage.
However, the side seemed more comfortable during the group stage. In the first two knockout rounds, Philadelphia Union needed a win on penalties to secure their semi-final spot. They were on the verge of a third consecutive shootout but scored a last-gasp winner in the last match.
Philadelphia Union were up against the underdogs Queretaro FC in the last round. The MLS side had already beaten the Mexican outfit in the group stage. Looking at the fixture, coach Jim Curtin decided to roll the dice and leave Daniel Gazdag out of the matchday squad.
It was a risky move considering the fact that the Hungarian midfielder scored a hattrick when Philadelphia Union last faced Queretaro FC. Jesus Bueno was ushered into the starting lineup again, and the Venezuelan marked the occasion with his first goal of the campaign.
Now, against Inter Miami in the semi-final, Curtin will have a fired-up Bueno, who has also nabbed three assists in the competition, and the prolific and fresh Gazdag, who will be eager to get back on the pitch and steal the spotlight away from Messi.
Philadelphia Union were in possession of a slender one-goal lead till five minutes after the hour-mark. That is when Damion Lowe’s poor clearing header did not find a teammate and fell to Jaime Gomez, who whipped a cross in for Angel Sepulveda to slot home.
The performance of Lowe was quite concerning, and now the defender will be up against a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner. The Jamaican only won 33 percent of his tackles and half of the ground duels against Queretaro FC, and will certainly have to improve his overall performance.
Inter Miami were always the favorites to win against underdogs and domestic league counterparts Charlotte FC. However, after the complacent performance against FC Dallas in the Round of 16, there was some skepticism among experts and pundits.
The concerns were laid to rest after Inter Miami walked over Charlotte FC in a performance that was probably their best in any competition this season. The side scored two goals in either half and did not commit the same mistakes that were made against FC Dallas.
Inter Miami’s six-game winless run leading up to the mid-season MLS break has now been forgotten by the players as the club is unbeaten in five games now, for the first time since May this year. The focus is entirely on getting the Leagues Cup trophy home.
In the first half of the quarter-final, Inter Miami attempted three shots, and all three were on target. On the other hand, Charlotte FC could muster just a single attempt in the entire half, and even that flew off target. The Inter Miami defense did not have a lot to do.
In the initial stages of the second half, Charlotte FC stomped on the gas pedal and caught the Inter Miami defense napping on a couple of occasions. Substitute Patrick Agyemang had a couple of chances, but Drake Callender saved his efforts.
Inter Miami cannot afford to switch off like that against a stronger team like Philadelphia Union. Doing that will allow players like Gazdag to sneak into the penalty area and create opportunities that could lead to a catastrophic outcome for Gerardo Martino’s men.
The addition of Messi and his former Barcelona teammates has certainly strengthened every part of the team. Initially, it was assumed that Inter Miami would solely depend on the new arrivals for goals and creativity.
However, that assumption was laid to rest in the last game. Against Charlotte FC, Messi did get on the scoresheet, but the Argentine scored the fourth and final goal of the match. Josef Martinez and Robert Taylor also got on the scoresheet.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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