Saturday's MLS clash between the Philadelphia Union and Inter Miami will require both teams to cope without key players, but Jim Curtin is viewing it as an opportunity.

Miami will be without Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez for the match, with the duo preparing to represent Argentina and Uruguay, respectively, at the Copa America.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, will have to make do without 10-goal leading scorer Daniel Gazdag, who is part of Hungary's squad for Euro 2024.

Asked about the difficulties of coping without Gazdag, Curtin pointed out that Miami will also need to adjust and highlighted 20-year-old midfielder Jack McGlynn as an example of a player who could stand to benefit. 

"He's not a 10 but he has the passing range to unlock a defence," Curtin said of McGlynn. "Maybe he does it from a deeper position, but we might need him to be a little more aggressive.

"Unfortunately, he won't be passing the ball to Daniel Gazdag so all these things weigh in, just like Jordi Alba won't be combining with Messi. 

"Both teams aren't at full strength, so we have to make the most of what it is. I see this as an opportunity to bring out players' skills, like with Jack."

Miami lead the way in the Eastern Conference with 35 points, 15 clear of the eighth-placed Union having played two additional matches.

Since Messi joined the Herons last year, they have only won three of 14 matches without him, drawing five and losing six. 

The Argentine's minutes were managed ahead of him linking up with Argentina, which coach Gerardo Martino says was necessary. 

"With the passage of time, one sees the body does not recover in the same way," he told TyC Sports this week. 

"He understands it, he sees that there are trips that are high-risk and long. That's why we started to agree on when it is necessary for him to stop."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Philadelphia Union – Jack McGlynn

McGlynn, who is expected to play a major role for the United States at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, has two goals and four assists this season.

That first figure is a joint career best, while the latter is a new personal benchmark. The cultured left-footer could be set to play a central role at Subaru Park.

Inter Miami – Sergio Busquets

With Messi and Suarez absent, it could be down to Busquets to lead the way for Miami. 

The Barcelona great trails only Riqui Puig (1,330) for successful passes in MLS this year (1,115), and four of his 17 chances created have become assists. 

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

Miami have won two of their last four away games against Philadelphia (one draw, one defeat). 

They are one of just three teams (alongside New York City and Orlando City) with multiple road wins over the Union since the start of the 2021 season.

Philadelphia have struggled at home in general lately, going six regular-season matches without a win (two draws, four defeats) at Subaru Park. 

Since last September, they have only won two of their 13 league games on home soil (seven draws, four defeats), with only two MLS sides collecting fewer home points than their 13 since that run began.

However, with both teams missing key players, it is difficult to have much confidence in either. A draw could be on the cards, with Miami lacking their usual firepower. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY 

Philadelphia Union – 38.4%

Inter Miami – 35.2%

Draw – 26.5%

Jim Curtin believes maintaining an organised, coordinated press will be key for the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, when they take on CF Montreal at Subaru Park.

The Union sit eighth in the Eastern Conference standings, five places but just three points clear of Montreal, after playing out a goalless draw with Toronto FC in midweek.

Philadelphia have only won one of their last nine MLS matches but have taken five points from their last three (one win, two draws), while keeping three straight clean sheets.

Curtin feels picking their moments to strike is the way to go against Laurent Courtois' team, saying: "We expect a really tough test against Montreal. You can tell they're well-coached, they're well-drilled in the way that they try to pass out of the back.

"They have some really intricate movements within their group. They're brave home and away in the way they try and play. 

"We'll have to do a good job of being organised, and try to turn them over as close to their goal as possible, and create chances."

Montreal ended a run of seven league games without a victory (three draws, four losses) by beating D.C. United 4-2 last time out, with Ariel Lassiter among the scorers.

Lassiter hopes that result can be a turning point in their season, saying: "Winning changes everything, winning changes the outlook of the locker room and the mentality.

"It's the victory, the three points that we need to go into Philadelphia to get points there, and then to finish for the international break on a high."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

The Union have failed to score in back-to-back MLS matches for the first time since April 2023. They have not gone three straight MLS matches (including playoffs) without finding the net in over a decade, last doing so in September 2013.

His team's leading scorer with nine goals in 14 league games this term, Gazdag will look to end their barren run.

CF Montreal – Sunusi Ibrahim 

Ibrahim scored a brace off the bench for Montreal on Wednesday, becoming just the third player in club history to score multiple goals off the bench in an MLS match.

He was the first Montreal player to achieve the feat since Ahmed Hamdi in July 2021.

MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN

The Union have won only one of their last nine matches (four draws, four losses) following their scoreless draw with Toronto on Wednesday. 

Philadelphia's seven points during this time is their fewest in a nine-match span in a single season since they took seven points from nine games between March and May 2017.

However, they have only lost one of their last eight games against Montreal (four wins, three draws), who were winless in nine across all competitions before their midweek victory. Home advantage makes them favourites.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union – 58.5%

CF Montreal – 19.9%

Draw – 21.6%

Toronto FC head coach John Herdman admits his team still have some growing to do as they travel to Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.

Despite losing three of their last four MLS games – winning the other 5-1 at home to CF Montreal – Toronto sit sixth in the Eastern Conference on 22 points with a very balanced record.

They have won seven and lost seven of their league games, drawing the other one, and have both scored and conceded 24 goals.

After conceding late in their 4-3 loss to Cincinnati, Herdman says his team need to put more work into their defensive side of the game.

"It's that level of concentration, that level of discipline that championship teams are able to bring to games," Herdman said.

"Knowing your job and delivering your job in high-pressure moments where you stay concentrated for long periods of time, that was the message [this week].

"I think collectively as a group they recognized it. And they welcomed it. They know we're growing. They know we’re on a bit of a journey."

Philadelphia are four points off a final series place in eighth with 18 points and are unbeaten in their last two matches after failing to win any of the previous six.

Asked about the test his side will face against Toronto, the Union head coach Jim Curtin said they are a "much-improved team.

"Really well organized, really well coached. A dangerous team."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

Gazdag has been involved in eight goals (four goals, four assists) in three home matches against Toronto FC, recording multiple goal contributions in each match.

Toronto FC – Lorenzo Insigne

After recording two assists against Montreal last week, Insigne had a goal and an assist on Saturday, the second player, along with Federico Bernardeschi, to contribute to multiple goals in consecutive matches for Toronto this season.

MATCH PREDICTION: PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN

The Union have won each of their last four home matches against Toronto by a combined score of 16-2. Philadelphia had won just four of their first 11 home matches against the Reds (D3 L4).

However, the Union have lost four consecutive home matches for the first time in club history. Philadelphia had suffered three defeats in their previous 59 matches at Subaru Park before this run.

Meanwhile, Toronto nearly drew with FC Cincinnati on Saturday, losing 4-3 to a goal in the third minute of stoppage time. Toronto have drawn only one of their last 36 matches in all competitions dating back to last June (W11 L24).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union – 67.7%

Draw – 18.9%

Toronto FC – 13.4%

Nick Cushing hailed the togetherness demonstrated by New York City FC as they look to continue their impressive form against a struggling Philadelphia Union.

The Boys in Blue endured a poor start to the MLS season – losing four of their opening five matches – but have tasted defeat just once in their last seven.

Last weekend's 3-2 victory over Toronto FC was New York's fourth in five matches, and Cushing saluted the character shown by his squad in recent times.

"We're training incredibly well," he said. "Our intensity and our culture is excellent at the moment.

"I'm so proud of the team because if you look at the way the bench celebrated the third goal [against Toronto], these are guys there that really want to get on the field.

"The way they celebrate for their team-mates and for the team shows me that [togetherness]."

Despite their impressive form, though, NYCFC face a potential banana skin in Philadelphia, who have prevailed in each of the last five meetings between the Eastern Conference sides.

"They are a really hard team to get results against, especially there [at home]," Cushing added. "There's an opportunity there for us, but we have to prepare well."

The Union are without a win in five matches – losing three – and have been beaten in each of their last three on home soil.

Jim Curtin's side had started the season with a seven-game unbeaten run, and the head coach has urged his players to draw inspiration from that as they bid to turn their fortunes around.

"I'm a big believer that you can make your own luck," he said. 

"We've shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit in recent games, played from behind quite a bit, had to chase games and put a lot into them, and we get punished.

"We have to stick together as a group and find a way to tighten things up. We're on a really bad stretch here, but we know we're capable of going on unbeaten streaks already like we've had this year.

"We have to turn it around, and we can't feel sorry for ourselves."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

Despite Union's recent struggles, Gazdag has been in fine form – scoring in three straight home games, though they have all ended in defeat.

The Hungary international is the first player to score in three successive home matches but appear on the losing side each time since Colorado Rapids' Kei Kamara in 2019.

New York City FC – Hannes Wolf

Wolf set up two of NYCFC's three goals in their victory over Toronto FC last time out.

The midfielder became the first Austrian to claim at least two assists in an MLS game after Daniel Royer (2020), Andreas Ivanschitz (2016) and Andreas Herzog (2004).

MATCH PREDICTION: NEW YORK CITY FC

New York have won four of their last five matches, scoring multiple goals in each of their victories.

They had only scored two or more goals once in their opening seven games of this season.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia are currently on the longest losing home streak in their history, having lost each of their last three at Subaru Park.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union: 49.7%
New York City FC: 22.8%
Draw: 27.5%

Jim Curtin is calling for his Philadelphia Union side to improve ahead of the visit of Orlando City this weekend.

The Union are on a run of four games without a victory, needing to come from two goals behind to salvage a 2-2 draw away at D.C. United last weekend.

The poor run has left the Union eighth in the Eastern Conference, already 10 points behind leaders Inter Miami.

Curtin knows his side must get better ahead of back-to-back home games, telling reporters: "We still have a lot we can improve.

"We go back home for two games and we have to play with confidence. That's really when this group are at their best."

Orlando, meanwhile, are in the midst of their own underwhelming start, winning just two of their first 10 MLS games to leave them 14th in the East.

Oscar Pareja's men went down 1-0 at home to FC Cincinnati last weekend, and the Orlando head coach was disappointed with the performance and defeat.

"It's another frustrating night because of the result," Pareja said. "Obviously, at this point we are needing urgency to get points."

Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese added: "We’re trying to push a certain way instead of being ourselves. This team just has to fix that and try and be ourselves."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

Gazdag has started the season impressively in front of goal, netting six times in nine matches to kick off the campaign. If Philadelphia are to get themselves back up towards the top of the East, Gazdag may be the man to fire them to it.

Orlando City – Duncan McGuire

Orlando have found it tricky in front of goal so far this term, and McGuire leads the team's scoring charts with four, double what any of his team-mates have managed. It will likely fall upon him to provide his team's main goal threat again on Saturday.

MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA WIN

The Union have lost back-to-back home matches after losing just two of their previous 51 at Subaru Park in all competitions. Philadelphia have never suffered a three-match home losing streak in all competitions in club history.

Orlando faced just seven shots in the defeat to Cincinnati last weekend as they've conceded a league-low 9.7 shots per match this season. Opponents have converted a league-high 18.6% of their shots into goals against the Lions this season, however.

Orlando won 2-1 at the Union in the last meeting between the sides in Chester in March 2023, but the Lions have never avoided defeat in consecutive away matches against Philadelphia in all competitions and the Union look the favourites to earn the three points this weekend.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia: 54.2%

Orlando: 19.7%

Draw: 26.1%

Jim Curtin is keen to see the Philadelphia Union retain their reputation as a tough team to play against, with his side still unbeaten this season ahead of Saturday's visit of Real Salt Lake.

The Union sit sixth in the Eastern Conference standings with three wins and four draws so far this term, their latest stalemate coming by a 2-2 scoreline against Atlanta United last time out.

While Curtin was somewhat disappointed to see the Union's three-match winning streak ended in Georgia, he is pleased by the resilience they have shown ahead of their return to Subaru Park.

"Whether people in the public think we're good or think we're bad, they will at least say we're tough to play against," Curtin said. 

"I think that unequivocally across the board, there's not a coach or general manager or fan in this league that would say we're an easy team to deal with and play against.

"Part of that is not losing, finding ways to turn losses into ties, ties into wins, and we'll look to try to continue to do that and really protect our home field."

Philadelphia face a tough test this weekend, though, against a Salt Lake team currently flying high in third in the Western Conference. 

Pablo Mastroeni's men are unbeaten in their last four games, producing their best performance of 2024 to date last time out as they thrashed the Chicago Fire 4-0 on the road. 

"I'm so excited about what we can do as a group, as players and coaches, and the onus is on us to continue to get better and really push this thing forward," Mastroeni said after that win.

"I think we've established a decent standard, and we know where we are at our best and where we are lacking, but it's testament to the work the guys are doing during the week."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Mikael Uhre

Uhre scored the Union's first goal as they fought back from two goals down to draw in Atlanta.

He has four goal involvements in MLS play this term (three goals, one assist), a tally only matched by Daniel Gazdag and Julian Carranza among his Union team-mates.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango

Arango scored twice against the Fire last week and has now been involved in at least one goal in four straight regular-season road games, equalling the longest such streak in Real Salt Lake's history.

Might he break new ground at Subaru Park?

MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN

The Union's only win in 12 all-time meetings with Real Salt Lake was a 4-1 home victory when the teams last met at Subaru Park in May 2018 (six draws, five losses). This will be the sides' first meeting on any ground since June 2019.

While the visitors are unbeaten in their last five matches (three wins, two draws), this could be their toughest test to date.

Philadelphia have only lost one of their last 41 regular-season home matches (28 wins, 12 draws), including going unbeaten through their last 16 (nine wins, seven draws), a run dating back over a year.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union – 57.8%

Real Salt Lake – 17.3%

Draw – 24.9%

Jesse Marsch and other American coaches have been "cursed" by the popularity of television series Ted Lasso.

That is the opinion of Jim Curtin, who led the Philadelphia Union to the MLS Cup final last year.

Curtin has spent his entire coaching career so far with the Union, but other Americans have sought to make strides in the European game – with limited success.

Marsch is perhaps the most high-profile example, leaving the New York Red Bulls for Salzburg and then RB Leipzig before landing a Premier League job with Leeds United.

He lasted less than a year at Elland Road, however, and Curtin feels he was hurt by the emergence of Ted Lasso.

Jason Sudeikis portrays the title character in the Apple TV show in which he is appointed as coach of a Premier League club despite having little knowledge of the sport.

"I have to say I like [Ted Lasso], because if I say I hate it, I'm some elitist coach," Curtin told The Athletic.

"I love the humanness of it. I watched the whole first season.

"I give them credit for being at least close to capturing the feeling in the locker room. They get that there are people from different cultures, a**holes, nice guys, there are wives who are annoying, who are problems.

"That's all real. He comes off as loveable.

"Do I think it's set back the American coach 20 years? Yes, I do. We worked so hard to get to Europe, and then Jesse breaks in and it's like what a curse to have that show break out at the same time he's there.

"You can feel it with [Marsch]. He seems so angry at it, but if you show that, they'll chew you up and spit you out."

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