March 5, 2021

Gonzalo Higuain to make Inter Miami debut vs. Philadelphia

Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain is expected to make his highly anticipated Inter Miami debut on the road Sunday night against the Philadelphia Union.

The team announced Saturday afternoon that Higuain received his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate and is available to travel and play in the game (7:30 p.m., MyTV33, Unimas).

Miami is coming off its worst loss of the season, 4-1 at home to the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night, so the team is highly motivated. The addition of Higuain will be a huge boost.

Union coach Jim Curtin was preparing his team for Higuain just in case.

“We showed our players some older clips of him, his movement in the box, how he comes to life,” Curtin said by phone Friday. “He’s not a striker that needs two looks. He finishes everything that he touches.

“When you talk about Higuain, you don’t score goals at Real Madrid and Juventus and now come to a league and think it’s going to be hard for him to score goals. He’s a world-class striker. His job is to put the ball in the back of the net. 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 keep a clean sheet.”

Even before it was clear if Higuain could play, Curtin had high praise for Inter Miami. He said the expansion team’s 3-8-2 record does not reflect its quality.

“When you analyze all the games Miami has played this year, they’ve been a very unlucky and unfortunate team,” Curtin said. “They’ve had red-card referee decisions go against them, injuries. When you watch the way they play, they have a confidence to pass and build out of the back. The coach is one I respect a great deal because they play the right way. They get numbers forward very quickly in transition, but they also recover with good sprints.”

Curtin is impressed with Miami’s roster.

“I like a lot of their players. They have a ton of talent,” he said. “You talk about attacking pieces in [Rodolfo] Pizarro, a player we think very highly of here; [Lewis] Morgan I like a lot, how dynamic he is, serving balls into the box. Juan Agudelo has really come to life and been dangerous for them. [Blaise] Matuidi, a World Cup winner, as a TAM player somehow [doesn’t count against Designated Player limit] is a really nice luxury.

“So, you sprinkle in Higuain and this is a really talented and dangerous team.”

Philadelphia is 7-2-4 and tied for second place in the East with Orlando City and Toronto FC. It has outscored its past four opponents 9-2. The Union beat Miami 2-1 on July 14 in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. It will be without South Florida native Alejandro Bedoya, who is serving a yellow-card suspension. Defender Ray Gaddis (injured) is doubtful.

“It was a hard-fought battle in Orlando, a one-play game and I expect the same on the weekend,” Curtin said. “Full credit to what Miami is building there and certainly they’ve added a lot of talent to their group since we saw them last. There is no magic wand; things don’t click instantly. But you can see what they do on the field and off the field, you can tell they’re building something special.”

Curtin and his staff are instructing their players not to lose sight of Miami playmaker Pizarro as he darts around the midfield. Pizarro came off the bench on Wednesday as he nursed a sore hamstring, but said Friday that he is “100 percent.”

“Pizarro has a way of moving about the field, not dissimilar to a player I played with, [Mexican legend] Cuathemoc Blanco, where they’re experts in getting open while your team has the ball,” Curtin said. “So, the key is knowing where he is at all times, because he’s great at finding space and getting open. He’s going to be a real challenge for us. He might pop up on the right, on the left, central. It’s a team effort when you talk about players of his quality to get numbers around him.”

The Mexican national team has been in talks with Inter Miami about Pizarro’s availability for October friendly matches. But Alonso suggested the club would prefer he not travel because he would miss important MLS games, and would require COVID-related quarantines upon his return.

Pizarro will leave the decision to the club. “Of course, I always want to represent my country, but I understand it is complicated and why the league would not want us to travel and miss games this late in the season,” he said. “The club will decide what is best.”

Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.

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