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Messi and Miami have a tough task ahead: who is the player to watch for Philadelphia?

The Herons face their toughest test yet as they take on Philadelphia Union in the Leagues Cup semi-final at Subaru Park.

Philadelphia Union, el mejor equipo de MLS en Concacaf
Bill StreicherUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Messi and Inter Miami are thriving in Leagues Cup 2023. Ever since the player’s debut for his new side, they have breezed past all opposition who have stood in their way, and now find themselves on the verge of sealing a ticket to the Concacaf Champions League.

But their toughest challenge is always the next one, and this time, the opposition is no easy task for Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino and his side, who so far have, at times, made the competition look borderline easy for the World Cup winner: 2022 MLS Cup finalists, Philadelphia Union.

Philly’s impressive statistics during Leagues Cup

Philadelphia Union’s home record is well known, with the side racking up 15 games without losing at Subaru Park, the 18,500 capacity stadium in south-east Pennsylvania. And there’s more: if we count only losses, the last time the Union failed to get anything from a game at their fortress was a staggering 28 games ago, back in March.

The side have the third-highest expected goals of all the teams to compete in the tournament, with 9.06, and sit just behind Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami, who are on 9.16. Away at the top is Toluca, who have 12.96. They are top of pops when it comes to key passes, having played 54 in the competition so far; Miami don’t make the top 4, which is filled up by semi-finalists Monterrey and Nashville, as well as Toluca.

Who do Miami need to watch out for?

Rather than asking about the player to watch, I’d rather go for players to watch. Kai Wagner, the incessant runner at left-back, is always one to keep an eye on for the Union, as his crossing currently has his top of the pile in Leagues Cup, with 15 successful crosses so far. Added to that is Nathan Harriel, who has 2 headed goals. If there is a duo who are likely to strike for Philly, it might be these two.

And then of course there is Gazdag. The 27-year-old, who has been declared available for selection, may be a known quantity in MLS but that quantity is a very good one, and he is a player whose creativity has been well documented by all opposition teams and managers. The Hungarian, who is a specialist from the spot and has three penalty goals already, will be the man to create damage through the middle for Philadelphia against Miami who will need to keep their heads and not just cross their fingers and rely on Leo.

Daniel Gazdag battles for the ball against D.C. United midfielder Mateusz Klich at Subaru Park.
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Daniel Gazdag battles for the ball against D.C. United midfielder Mateusz Klich at Subaru Park.Bill StreicherUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Who will be the other team in the final?

The second semi-final of leagues Cup is between Nashville SC and Monterrey, who, with an in-form Sergio Canales, have also found a new lease of life in the unique, crossover tournament that has been a rousing success.

Whoever goes through in either semi-final will have earned their place in the grand final of the tournament and we are set for an intriguing day of football across the US! Make sure to follow the live feed on AS USA for minute-by-minute coverage of the game!