The rain relentlessly pelted down Sunday night on Subaru Park, sending the ball skipping around the turf and making footing a bit hazardous but the Union were not fazed.
Behind goals from Anthony Fontana and Ilsinho, each off nice setups from Kacper Przybylko, and one in stoppage time by Brenden Aaronson, the Union remained unbeaten at home with a 3-0 victory over Inter Miami.
Playing without captain Alejandro Bedoya, who was suspended for the game because of an accumulation of yellow cards, the Union (8-2-4), who began the night in third place in MLS, improved to 4-0-1 in their last five games. They won their fourth straight at home, where they are 5-0-1 this season.
The Union only put five shots on goal but made them count, and coach Jim Curtin was pleased to see his offense rebound after a 0-0 tie at FC Cincinnati.
“We were lacking in the attack part of it,” he said, “but tonight the players really stepped up. It’s a great example in soccer, in our game, when 11 players minus our captain are cohesive and together and fighting for each other, you can beat any group of talented players. The way the Philadelphia Union plays, the way the next man can step up, missing our captain, I thought we got a lot of big performances from guys.”
One of those came from Fontana, a 20-year-old homegrown talent from Newark, Del., who opened the scoring in the 25th minute off a feed from Kacper Przybylko, one of his two assists on the night, by cutting to his right and booting the ball past goalkeeper Luis Robles.
“I thought Anthony did a good job of finding space," Curtin said. “The thinking tonight was to have Brenden [Aaronson] drop a little deeper and play in the role of Bedoya. We thought he’d do a better job of getting to their inside backs at certain moments and it would give Anthony a chance to get a little closer to the goal and do what he does best, get his shot off in and around the box.”
Ilsinho, the 34-year-old veteran midfielder who came on in the 59th minute, deposited a centering pass from Przybylko into the net in the 69th minute to make it 2-0, and Aaronson concluded the scoring by stealing the ball from Wil Trapp and deposited a shot in the far corner of the net in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
The game marked the Miami debut of Gonzalo Higuain, who came in with 306 goals scored over a 15-year professional career. Higuain was a handful for the Union defense all evening but when he had a chance to get Miami to within one in the 76th minute, he skied a penalty kick over the goal.
The penalty kick came off of a video-assisted review where officials saw Przybylko commit a handball just inside the 18-yard box.
Curtin admired the performance of his center backs, Mark McKenzie and Jakob Glesnes, against Higuain.
“Our center backs continue to dominate,” he said. “I can’t say enough about Glesnes and McKenzie. They have a good thing going. I’m really happy with how they’ve been playing.”
Andre Blake posted his sixth shutout of the season for the Union, turning aside three shots on goal.
Up to that point, the Union appeared to have a slight advantage on offense. Fontana found Jamiro Monteiro coming in from Robles right in the ninth minute but his shot was turned aside by the keeper. Monteiro’s plant foot appeared to slide just a bit on the wet pitch.
Three minutes later, Fontana looked to be in the clear chasing down a loose ball that just had entered the box, but his feet were clipped by Nicolas Figal and he went down as Union players screamed for a foul.
Higuain showed he meant business with his first two touches. His first in the 13th minute was a 15-yard bullet off his left foot that sailed over the crossbar by about a foot. About seven minutes later, he executed a bicycle kick off Figal’s cross and his 12-yard shot grazed the outside of the post to Blake’s right.
The Higuain highlight reel continued in the 36th minute when he accepted Juan Agudelo’s header in the 6-yard box and tried to cut to Blake’s right, but Blake smothered his shot at the post.
The Union’s best chance in the second half came on a 15-yard dart from Sergio Santos that was turned aside by Robles. The final stages saw Blake anchor a defense that kept the pressing Miami attack from hitting the net.