Philadelphia Union spoil Higuain’s MLS debut

PHILADELPHIA (AFP) – Gonzalo Higuain’s Major League Soccer debut ended in embarrassment on Sunday night as the former Juventus striker hopelessly missed a penalty to compound yet another defeat for struggling Inter Miami.

The former Juventus and Argentina striker, who was only cleared to play on Saturday following the completion of his move from Turin earlier this month, showed in flashes why David Beckham’s American franchise decided to make him one of the league’s highest paid players.

But with his side 2-0 down, Higuain skied a 75th minute spot-kick before clashing with Philadelphia Union players who goaded the Inter Miami striker following his horror miss from the spot. Higuain, of Argentina, last played for Juventus in their surprise Champions League defeat to Lyon back in August and even though he worked hard despite not being 100 per cent match-fit, nothing could stop Philadelphia running away with a comprehensive 3-0 win.

These are desperate times for Inter Miami’s manager Diego Alonso who badly needs some world-class firepower to boost a faltering team who arrived at a sodden Subaru Park with just three wins from 13 matches, scoring just 12 times in the process.

“He showed he was in good condition but will need more games and then he will feel more comfortable,” Alonso said. “He was very keen to play but the penalty miss could happen to anyone. He will keep working hard.

Gonzalo Higuain of Inter Miami CF shakes hands with Brenden Aaronson of Philadelphia Union after the game at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. PHOTO: AFP

“We had chances but no luck. We need to continue working hard so we can be more lethal.”

And with 20 minutes on the clock, former Real Madrid star Higuain almost capped a dream start when his acrobatic overhead kick from Nicolas Figal’s cross clipped the post.

It was an encouraging start for Higuain, a player the front office are hoping produces the goods for Beckham’s Inter Miami both on and off the pitch as their inaugural season remains mired in coronavirus uncertainty and difficulty.

The hope, however, was deflated on 24 minutes when the Union stormed ahead thanks to some less than impressive Inter defending, something which is consistently proving to be Alonso’s downfall this season.

Sloppy play saw the home side quickly regain possession from a throw-in and Anthony Fontana showed great composure before firing clinically past Luis Robles for his fourth goal of the campaign.

Higuain, though, was working hard in the absence of any further opportunities and some excellent hold up play almost saw Lewis Morgan draw the visitors level.

Alonso threw on rookie striker Robbie Robinson at the interval to partner Higuain in the hope of giving Miami’s attack extra impetus although the better chances were presenting themselves at the other end, Robles superbly keeping his side in the game.

Inter Miami full-back Ben Sweat almost levelled on 57 minutes and was denied brilliantly by Union keeper Andre Blake soon after yet Alonso needed more from other Designated Players Blaise Matuidi, the former Juventus and French World Cup winning midfielder, and Mexican international Rodolfo Pizarro if they were to return to south Florida with some reward for their endeavour.

Union, however, killed the game off on 69 minutes when Ilsinho finished a superb move and Miami’s misery was complete when Higuain blazed a penalty over the bar after the video assistant intervened on a handball decision which was initially missed by the on-field official. Brendan Aaronson made it three in stoppage time.

Higuain racked up 306 goals in 632 appearances for the likes of River Plate, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Napoli, Chelsea and the reigning Serie A champions who deemed him surplus to requirements following the appointment of legendary Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo as coach last month.