Inter Miami CF aren’t just grabbing headlines and making big money-moves.
They’re also earning the respect of one of Major League Soccer’s longest-tenured coaches, with Philadelphia Union boss Jim Curtin praising the expansion club’s project ahead of their Sunday evening meeting at Subaru Park (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, on DAZN in Canada).
“I think in our league, there's no magic wand and things don't just click instantly,” Curtin said Friday via virtual press conference. “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.”
Philadelphia, unbeaten in their last four games (3-0-1), have already encountered Diego Alonso’s group once this year, a 2-1 group-stage win at the MLS is Back Tournament. Curtin called that a one-play game, where a second-half goal from Kacper Przybylko decided the July 14 match.
Even if Miami are coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss at home against the New York Red Bulls, Curtin feels they’ve been unlucky this year. The Union are five points behind the Supporters’ Shield-leading Columbus Crew SC, while Miami are one of three clubs on a league-worst 11 points.
Highlights: Philadelphia Union 2, Inter Miami CF 1
“When you analyze all the games Miami has played this year, I think they've been a very unlucky and unfortunate team,” Curtin said. “They've had red card referee decisions go against them, they've had injuries. When you watch the way they play, they have a confidence to pass and build out of the back.
“I think the coach is one that I respect a great deal because his team plays the right way. They get numbers forward very quickly in transition, but they also recover with good sprints. I like a lot of their players. They have a ton of talent. It's a team that's been on the unlucky side of some results, but it's one that we respect a great deal.”
A different XI awaits after that July meeting, as Miami can now turn to center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and French World Cup-winning midfielder Blaise Matuidi. They signed Gonzalo Higuain to a Designated Player deal last week, too, and Philly are game-planning for the ex-Juventus star regardless as he awaits his visa before being available for selection.
“Look, when you talk about Higuain, you don't score goals at Real Madrid, at Juventus and now come to a new league and think that, ‘Oh, it's going to be hard for him to score goals,’” Curtin said. “He's a world-class striker. His job is to put the ball in the back of the net. Obviously we respect him a ton as a player and for what he's done in his career, but we all have a job to do and that's to try to keep another clean sheet.”
Curtin also likened midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro’s movement to his ex-Chicago Fire FC teammate Cuauhtemoc Blanco. It was a nod to their mutual El Tri ties, and Curtin said Pizarro has a way of finding space and getting open while the opposition has the ball.
Each layer leaves Curtin confident that a tall task awaits, results and form aside.
“Obviously we do know Miami is coming off a tough loss, but they've also been playing really good soccer,” Curtin said. “It's certainly a different team than the one that we played down in Orlando, which was also a very good team."