Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. LAFC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union (2nd place, 51 points, 15-8-6) vs. LAFC (1st place, 63 points, 19-4-6)
What: 2019 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester PA
When: Saturday, September 14th, 7:30 p.m.
Watch: PHL17, ESPN+
Whistle: Referee: Nima Saghafi, Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Corey Rockwell, 4th Official: Sergii Demianchuk, VAR: Chico Grajeda

The international break is finally coming to an end and the Philadelphia Union have their biggest match of the year, with league leaders LAFC coming to town. The Union had several players in action over the break with their respective national teams. They were also able to give some reserves some minutes in their friendly with PUMAS, a 3-0 win. The Union need a result to keep ahold of second place and keep pressure on NYCFC in first.

LAFC was one of the few sides that were still in action over the break, coming away with a 2-2 draw in Orlando. Carlos Vela was absent for that match, and looks to be back in training and getting ready for the Union. LAFC stayed on the East Coast after their Orlando match, training in Chester.

Scouting report: LAFC

It’s no secret that Los Angeles Football club have the most dangerous attack in the history of MLS.

Even with a not fully fit Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing still form one of the leagues most dangerous attacks. In their past four matches, LAFC has a record of 1-1-2 for five points. Their lone loss came at home, where they were shocked by Minnesota United. They then traveled to Orlando, coming away with a draw, but without Vela and during the international break. The main question for LAFC now is their defense. In those last four games, they have only kept one clean sheet. They then surrendered three goals to LA Galaxy, two to Minnesota and another two to Orlando.

For the casual soccer fan, the unquestioned star of LAFC is Carlos Vela. But, with his availability a rather large question mark, a lesser-known, but big star, will be running the attack for LAFC: Diego Rossi. The 21-year-old Uruguayan was linked with moves to Italy during the summer transfer window, and has shown his brilliance over the past two years. Another star that LAFC has is their goalkeeper, Tyler Miller. Miller, a Woodbury New Jersey native, has broken out with LAFC, earning himself a USMNT call up for the Gold Cup this past summer. One other player to watch is former Union left back Jordan Harvey, who has locked down a place in the LAFC XI.

LAFC haven’t looked like themselves in recent matches, but they will score goals. (In the lone matchup between LAFC and the Union last season, the Angelenos dropped four on Philadelphia.) Can the Union attack keep the pace against a struggling LAFC defense? The other major question for LAFC is of course Carlos Vela. Will the El Tri star be able to play, and if so, for how long?

Injury report:

OUT: Javi Perez (M)

DOUBTFUL: None

QUESTIONABLE:  Carlos Vela (F), Dejan Jakovic (D)

Suspension report: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The big question for the Union is how many goals can they put past the LAFC defense. Kacper Przybylko has shown his ability to finish in front of the next, Sergio Santos has revived his Union career with two strong recent performances. Brenden Aaronson has also seen a good run of form lately, scoring in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

What will be most important for the Union is the play of their center backs. The recent pairing of Mark McKenzie and Jack Elliott have been solid for the Union in the back, holding both D.C. United and Atlanta United to one goal each. They now face their toughest test in LAFC, a good performance can give a confidence boost to compete for first, while a bad performance might see manager Jim Curtin make replacements in the lineup like Auriellen Collin and Auston Trusty.

The key for this matchup lies in the midfield for the Union. While LAFC may have the best attack in the league, its time for the Union to show why they are one of the best midfields in the league. With Alejandro Bedoya returning from suspension, it will be interesting to see if Marco Fabian also returns to the starting lineup. Also, will the Union play their usual 4-4-2 diamond shape or opt for the 4-5-1 shape we have seen lately?

Injury report

OUT: None

QUESTIONABLE:  Warren Creavalle (M), Matt Freese (GK)

Suspension report: None
Key matchup: LAFC attack vs. Union defense

Can the Union defense continue their good run of form against the best attack in league history? Or will it be a morale-killing night for the Union defense? For a first place run, the Union are hoping their defense can rise to the challenge to compete with LAFC.

Player to watch: Alejandro Bedoya

Returning from suspension, Bedoya should be filled with energy and angry, since he did miss the big match against Atlanta. His team was able to win without him last time out, but is this the big game moment that Bedoya has been waiting for in a Union shirt.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2-2 LAFC

This game is going to be a fast and open one with plenty of chances, but I think it ends in draw. Carlos Vela or not, LAFC will score at least one goal, the question remains can the Union hold them to just one, and how many can their own attack find.

8 Comments

  1. .
    My goal for this match.
    .
    To be riveted for 96 minutes. If that happens I walk away knowing they gave LAFC everything they could and then some. I can be happy with an honorable defeat to this team Sunday.
    .
    We’re talking about a team with a +50 goal differential.
    .
    For those paying attention to media in drawing out the Rocky theme of this week further…
    .
    “I’m standin’ here.”
    .

  2. I think the Union take this game 3-1. Yup, I’m goin’ there. And I don’t usually predict major victories for the Union. But this time I think everything is lining up.

    1. The Union are feeling it after the big win against Atlanta. (Not to mention the 3-0 pounding of a solid Liga MX squad in the friendly!)

    2. Everyone is healthy, and rested. No lineup compromises need be made.

    3. The Union are at home, where the crowd will be out of their minds. They need these 3 points and will be carrying a giant chip on their shoulders.

    4. As you astutely point out, LAFC has had some defensive trouble of late as part of their overall dip in form. Vela’s absence does not explain that, and his presence won’t help it much.

    5. Vela will likely not start the match, because…

    6. LA don’t have a whole lot to play for. They might need a couple more points to lock up the Shield mathematically, but they can get those at home.

    I expect to see Vela come in as an early second-half sub. But there is no reason to try to get 60+ minutes from your superstar with a tweaked hamstring when you have a playoff run coming up soon.

  3. Only team in the league that the Union have never beaten. I think a lot will depend on who scores first. If the Union can take an early lead, we’ll be making a lot of noise but if LAFC is up, it might get kind of quiet.

  4. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Agree with a lot of what’s been said. I made a bold prediction what feels like forever ago: 7 points from this home stand. I’m feeling greedy and I expect more now. I think the Union piece together their best game of the year and take advantage of a struggling defense. 5-3 U win it. Ok I know I’m crazy..

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