Pressure on Campana, Taylor as Inter Miami faces Philadelphia without Messi, Suarez

Inter Miami headed to Philadelphia to face the Union Saturday night without captain Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Matias Rojas, who are on national team duty for the upcoming Copa America.

Despite the absences of the three Miami stars, who have combined for 27 goals and 18 assists, Union coach Jim Curtin is expecting a tough game from a team that has been atop the MLS standings all season.

“They’re very well coached and sometimes when the star players go away, that is when teams are most hungry,” Curtin said.

“So, everyone will talk about Messi and Suarez not being there. And of course, they are world class players and probably the best player of all time, at least in my opinion, in Messi. Suarez is a world class striker and Rojas is an incredible attacking player, as well. But having said that, they have Campana, who is a starter everywhere else in the league. He just happens to be behind a world class striker in Suarez. But he has scored a ton of goals, is real dangerous and ruthless in the box. Robert Taylor for me is underrated and can hurt you so many different ways. So, it’s still a really, really great team.”

Campana, the Ecuadorean forward, has scored four goals in 15 games this season and has 27 goals since joining Miami in 2022. Campana and Taylor each scored in the 2-1 road win against Vancouver on May 26 when Messi, Suarez and Sergio Busquets stayed home to rest. Campana also came off the bench and scored the lone goal in the 94th minute to lift Miami to a 1-0 win over D.C. United in mid-May.

Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said he spoke with Campana this week and urged him not to put too much pressure on himself.

“It’s not fair to put the weight of the team on him and expect him to do the impossible when he gets his chance because when he gets to play in these circumstances, there are key players missing, so the team around him is not as strong,” Martino said. “He has to play how he normally plays. When he plays limited minutes he has taken advantage, as well as when he played more minutes. He just has to play his game and help the team.”

Martino said he and his staff have been preparing for this stretch of games without the national team players and feels confident they have enough depth to remain among the league’s top teams. In addition to Campana and Taylor, the available Miami roster includes Busquets, Jordi Alba, Drake Callender, Julian Gressel, Benjamin Cremaschi, Tomas Aviles, Sergiy Kryvstov, Marcelo Weigandt, and David Ruiz.

“We head into these next two games with the absences we knew about since the first day of the preseason,” Martino said. “We planned for this. Both teams will be missing important players, so there are no excuses.

“Unfortunately, when we planned, we expected Fede Redondo and Diego Gomez to be available, but they are both coming back from injuries and probably will not be ready for Saturday. But we will play with who we have; and we are looking forward to the game.”

He said one focus of practice this week has been cutting down on turnovers and defensive errors, as the Miami gave up six goals in back-to-back games against Atlanta and St. Louis.

Philadelphia won’t be at full strength, either. Leading scorer Daniel Gazdag (10 goals) is away with Hungary at the European Championships, Damion Lowe is with Jamaica at Copa America, and former Inter Miami player Julian Carranza, who has scored 43 goals since joining the Union, is not expected to play as he is finalizing a reported move to Dutch team Feyenoord.

“We’ll be missing some players, they’ll be missing some some players as well, but it’s about the three points and then they’re gonna push for it,” Curtin said. “And we’ll we’ll try to take away their best attacking players as best we can. Sometimes in the absence of the stars, the others get a chance to step up, and it’ll be the same for us and then, and we expect a really tough game.”

Martino said his team was able to squeeze in all its training sessions this week, despite the heavy rain that swamped South Florida. They practiced early Wednesday before the deluge began, and the coach said the grounds crew did an exceptional job of draining the field for Thursday’s practice.

“The field looked as if nothing had happened, even though it was flooded the day before,” Martino said. “It was a tough day for everyone, but we did not lose any training time.”