Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-1 Los Angeles FC

Photo: 215pix

The inevitable MLS Supporters’ Shield winners squared off Saturday night with the team that’s topped the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season. It’s as close you can get to a potential final this late in the season. It’s a match that didn’t disappoint.

Philadelphia Union shared the spoils with Los Angeles Football club, with the MLS heavyweights playing to a 1-1 draw at Talen Energy Stadium.

Union forward Kacper Przybylko opened the scoring in just the third minute, sending a raucous Talen Energy Stadium in to feverish frenzy. The goal was cancelled out just before halftime,  with LAFC superstar Carlos Vela scoring his 28th goal of the season.

Union head coach Jim Curtin started the same 11 players who secured the 3-1 victory over Atlanta United two weeks ago, save for one major change. Philadelphia’s captain, Alejandro Bedoya, returned to the midfield after serving a one game suspension.

LAFC were also bolstered by a returning star of their own. Vela, the likely runaway MVP of MLS this season, returning to the starting lineup after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury.

It took the Union less than three minutes to prove they belong among elite of MLS.

Bedoya played Fafa Picault through LAFC’s back line down the right flank. The winger’s lofted cross found the head of MLS’s now fifth-leading goal scorer, Przybylko. The Polish forward scored his 14th goal of the season with a looping header over goalkeeper Tyler Miller.

It was a dream start for the club.

The early momentum was scythe-like, swinging back and forth, but it was the home side who carved out the next real chance.

Midfielder Brenden Aaronson nearly doubled the Union’s lead darting through the defense with an industrious run. Switching to his right foot, the 18-year-old’s attempted was denied only by the outstretched hand of a diving Miller.

LAFC’s first true chance came in the 35th minute. Some patience in the final third led to space for  midfielder Eduard Atuesta. The Colombian unleashed a right-footed rocket, but acrobatics from goalkeeper Andre Blake preserved the Union’s lead, if just for a moment.

The 43rd minute saw Los Angeles’ midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye’s first-touch volley carom off the crossbar. Unfortunately for the Union, the ball fell to Vela after some in the box chaos. The Mexican added to his Golden Boot lead with his 28th goal of the season.

After 45 minutes of action, the Union were level with the club who has already clinched the Western Conference.

A miscommunication after the restart nearly gifted the visitors the lead. An errant Union pass led to an LAFC counter, and Diomande was alone with Blake. The latter stood firm with a strong save, cutting off the angle.

Curtin went to his bench in the 58th minute, bringing on a player who entered the match with a +26 goal differential. Ilsinho replaced Aaronson on the wing. The Brazilian playmaker made an immediate impact, forcing a corner after a dazzling array of dekes launched a Philadelphia counter.

LAFC manager Bob Bradley responded with his own substitution with midseason attacking acquisition Brian Rodriguez replacing their goalscorer, Vela, in the 66th minute.

In the 72nd Minute, Philadelphia almost added their second. Przybylko found a wide open Picault in the center of the box, but a mishit shot fell harmlessly to Miller in net. For Przybylko, it was his last action of the match, being replaced by Sergio Santos in the 75th minute.

The Brazilian forward’s introduction nearly proved the decisive stroke in the 85th minute. Santos was played in, but with just the keeper to beat, his shot drifted wide.

The clubs traded chances in stoppage time, but neither could produce the winning goal.

For the Union, the point closes the gap on Eastern Conference leading New York City FC. Philadelphia will continue the chase for their first ever Eastern Conference title next week. They’ll travel up the New Jersey Turnpike to take on New York Red Bulls.

Three points
  • A fair result. After the early opener, it sucks to settle for the draw. It feels like the result was the right one, with both sides trading punches all game.
  • Lights, Kacper, Action! It didn’t take long for the striker to score yet another goal. While he might not be the Hollywood striker like some others in MLS, he’s proven to be among the best this league has.
  • If I would have told you in March… It’s Sep. 14, and we’re not talking about whether or not the Union make the playoffs. We’re talking about a legit MLS Cup contender.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin; Fafa Picault, Jamiro Monteiro, Brenden Aaronson (Ilsinho, 58′); Kacper Przybylko (Sergio Santos, 75′)
Substitutes: Joe Bendik, Aurélien Collin, Robert James Allen, Anthony Fontana, Andrew Wooten

Los Angeles FC
Tyler Miller; Steven Beitashour (Tristan Blackmon, 82′), Walker Zimmerman, Eddie Segura, Jordan Harvey; Latif Blessing, Eduard Atuesta; Carlos Vela (Brian Rodriguez, 66′), Mark-Anthony Kaye, Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande (Adrien Pérez, 74′)
Substitutes: Pablo Sisniega, Danilo Silva, Mohamed El-Munir, Lee Nguyen

Scoring Summary
PHI: Kacper Przybylko — 3′ (Fafa Picault, Alejandro Bedoya)
LAFC: Carlos Vela — 43′

Discipline Summary
LAFC: Mark-Anthony Kaye — 65′ (unsporting behavior)
LAFC: Latif Blessing — 78′ (unsporting behavior)
LAFC: Jordan Harvey — 88′ (unsporting behavior)
LAFC: Walker Zimmerman — 89′ (unsporting behavior)


  1. That was a ball game. Thought we stood toe to toe. Could have won. Blake my man of the match. Definitely kept the U. in it.

  2. Goddamn. Proud tonight. That was a good team- and two years ago it would have rested the questionable players Blessing and Vela out of deference to quality or concern, then trounced Philadelphia anyway. No more.
    So at long long last, I have finally arrived at the place I have painstakingly sought after to drop a quote which has been in my pocket for years and years because this team/franchise never quite was worthy of dropping it.
    “res firma mitescere nescit”
    ….now lets see who can place it.
    Carry on boys. You are the first or second best team in this conference and you ARE worthy of playing in the last game of the year. I’ve believed it for months now.
    “res firma mitescere nescit!”

  3. Showed they can play with the best, but unfortunately they lost 2 points to NYCFC and if they have to go through that place it will likely be a nightmare for the Union. The good news is that the picked up a point on Atlanta.
    If Portland can get at least a point at home tomorrow against DC and Colorado can somehow get a point or three in Toronto, the Union will clinch a home playoff game. A win next week at Pink Cow Arena clinches a top 3 spot regardless of what else happens.

  4. Very happy to see the guys battle with not a hint of back-down. I’ll take that 1-1 tie, to me it signifies that if these are the final two teams, the U have a very realistic shot. LAFC are humans, not robots, and they showed it a few times tonight.
    On another note, the LAFC goal was Harris’ and his alone. What in the world was his thinking there? That ball should have been 50 yards downfield instead of being worked into the Union goal. That was shocking to me.
    The Atlanta blog who wrote that “Union are pretenders” post a few weeks ago can SUCK ON THOSE LAST TWO GAMES for while. Douche.

  5. Did anyone else think Aaronson had taken lessons from Ilsinho when he made that run?
    I’m guessing a lot of the refs fall for LA’s diving given how much whining they were doing when they didn’t get the calls tonight. 4 yellow cards all going the same way says a lot about how the teams played.

    • O captain my captain crunch is gone says:

      I totally thought the same thing about the flopping. To their credit though once they realized they weren’t getting the calls they stopped. How that wasn’t a red when the lafc defender shoved santos to the ground was total bs. Santos would have had a breakaway. For what it’s worth well done Union. On to NY next week for another big game.
      Btw, no Fabian in the lineup? What’s that all about?

      • It’s hard to give a red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity that far out AND by the sidelines. There’s too much chance someone in the center would be able to get back and cutoff Santos’ angle. Not saying I wasn’t shouting for a red, but it is unlikely to be given there.
        Not sure if Fabian picked up a knock when he was with Mexico or just that he hasn’t been playing as well as some of the others.

      • Just listened to the start of Curtin’s press conference. Fabian missed a team meeting on Friday and that’s why he wasn’t in the lineup.

      • We sit in 114. When teams play the roll around and get a foul tactic ,the fans in the section always tell the subs to just lay on the grass and roll around. That’s all your gonna do anyway.

  6. Wagner owned Gressel last time and mostly controlled Vela this week. Blake may be defensive player of the game (deservedly) but Kai is right there with him. Not only that, he is a threat on the wing with his crossing ability. Love the way he plays.

  7. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Lots of thoughts. Happy with the fight, not happy they couldn’t find the final shot like U of old. This team is certainly for real though and nothing will make me question that. Give me 7 points against 3 playoff teams after a rough summer after NYRB. Speaking of, let’s put them out of their misery. Make them dread a potential 2nd visit to TES in October. Atlanta losing also gives us breathing room in a way. Now I find myself rooting for them to take all 3 points against NYCFC. Ugh haha

  8. Proud of the team! Didn’t back down. They may meet again…

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      This game may make people realize that an LA-Philly MLS Cup wouldn’t be so hard to watch, and is a bigger possibility than they realize. We still somehow get no respect.

      • Unfortunately we ain’t winning the conference now — NYCFC has been pretty fortunate in a few games of late — so the road to MLS Cup runs through Yankee Stadium. And the Union have never played worth s&#@ in that stupid little bandbox.

        I truly believe we could beat everyone else, and an LA-Philly Cup match in LA would be epic. But I doubt we’ll make it out of NYC, alas.

        OTOH, I reaaaally like our chances at a CONCACAF Chanpions’ League spot right now…

      • The league should tell NYC they have to move the pitcher’s mound for playoff games so they can play on a FIFA regulation pitch.

  9. That was so much fun! Packed stadium and 2 great teams that slugged it out. Nice that it is all finally clicking during the 10th season.

  10. OneManWolfpack says:

    A most excellent effort and better finishing would have gotten them all 3 points. Overall, nothing really bad to say. Blake returned to form a bit making some good saves and distributing well. Proud of the team tonight for playing in what I think was the fastest soccer game I have ever watched in person. LAFC is legit and they can move. I thought Vela was a non-factor, other than his goal, which I would argue was very un-Vela like. Better finishing and this team, without a doubt, can play for MLS Cup.

  11. That finish from Kacper was absolutely sick. “Carlos who?…”

    Unfortunately after that he largely disappeared, on a couple of occasions failing to make a good run that he really should’ve made. I have to wonder if, after all these months of playing every minute, he’s finally wearing down somewhat.

    Meanwhile the defense had a really strong effort overall — each man played quite well indeed. When you hold the best team in MLS history to a single goal, you did good. My son and I each independently voted for Blake as MotM, with Wagner, who kept Vela in his pocket most of the evening, as runner-up.

    Just a damn shame to hit these guys in the 3rd minute and then not score again the whole match. Sigh. But a draw is not too bad an outcome against this club, playing with their full starting lineup. And damn that Latif Blessing is a curse…

    • That whole goal was sick from the Fafa asking for the ball, Ale getting it to him, the cross from Fafa where no one else could get it, and the finish from Kacper to essential chip the ball with his head over the keeper.

  12. Great Effort from the Union. I think it could be argued that Kai and Andre both had one of if not their best games all season. Sure I’m slightly disappointed with the tie, but glad they got a point. Once again this team showed it is for real.

  13. A fair draw. Well done. Onwards.

    • Dear “The Truth”:

      The Union and many of its supporters claim we finally have a great team, and we can’t beat a truly great team in our own house and after they have completed the farthest travel for an MLS match? If the Union is truly a great team, at this point in the season a draw is simply not good enough. These matches must be won.

      Again, we have a Team with ownership not leading us to a Result (i.e. a trophy). Jay Sugarman and his MLS cohorts keep blocking promotion-relegation — because 1) they keep scooping up our money, and 2) they are afraid of failure (i.e. relegation).

      Look at the outcome yesterday of the EPL’s newly-promoted Norwich beating the defending champions Manchester City 3-2. This is what the MLS needs and what Sugarman and co. are truly afraid of.

      Meanwhile, a real MLS table (combined East & West and accounting for games in hand) has our Union in 3rd place now. Tick tock tick tock…

      • Why do you have to be so negative all the time? This is by far the team’s best season. so go somewhere else when they just got a result against the best team in the league. You certainly have no right to use the word “we” when describing them since you are not playing for them, are not part of the management, and have an attitude that does more harm to the team than good.
        And, you are great at showing your ignorance regarding geography, since there are at least 4 teams who have a farther distance to travel to Philly than LAFC has and there are other teams that LAFC has to travel farther to get to. But apparently you’re not smart enough to figure that out.

      • Pepito, The Biggest Cat in the Whole World says:

        Even with all of the success this season we still have some Negadelphia idiots. Slap yourself, kid.

      • I agree with everything Andy says. and I would point out that the travel for this game gave no advantage to the Union. LAFC played in Orlando the previous weekend and the team actually spent the week in Philadelphia and did some training at our facilities. So they were fully adjusted to the time difference for this game.

      • LA also stayed in our area after playing in Orlando the prior game, so travel fatigue really wasn’t an issue.

    • Andy: I am not negative “all the time” — I am quite positive about how well Atlanta did last year (MLS Champion in only their 2nd season), and multiple World Cup victories by our US WNT. Yes I have the right to say “we” — I was a founding member of this Team & 9-continuous seasons tix holder, thus I have given much money, spirit, and backing of this team. I was speaking loosely on the travel distance. Finally, this cannot be the Team’s best season until the season is over and all results are known. Please, no spinning.

      Micah: That is an excellent point — thank you, I did not know that LAFC had been on the East coast for a week. However, that still does not negate that we should have won this match.

      • John O'Donnell Jr says:

        Actually it is the best season ever already. Most points and made the playoffs. Teams never won a playoff game so….

      • If you can’t see it by now, then you probably never will. Why you are so determined in this season, of all seasons to stick with the same old story line, is beyond me. Pure and simply, it doesn’t fit. This team IS different. Sure, things were shitty for 9 years. Yes, that happened. It sucked. We all went through it. I’ll give you a hug if you need it. But, at this point in time, to essentially be at the moment you have been waiting for, for those 9 years, and to decide to keep sitting in your personal shit pool and fling it at those enjoying the fun going on around YOU, is YOUR choice. It’s your loss at this point. You are losing out. That is a shame.
        Dude, please come over. Come to the fun side. Relax, enjoy the ride. It’s a good one I swear. The best part is the end hasn’t been written yet. Come on over.

      • “I’ll give you a hug if you need it” :oD

        Tim, were you in the stadium for the Atlanta game? It was absolutely electrifying. And we dropped 3 goals in the second half on the team you apparently idolize, who are also, BTW, the 2nd or 3rd best defensive team in the league.

        As for the LAFC game… nobody thinks this was a bad result except you.

  14. There was one thing the Union did wrong, not last night, but before the season started. Given that we are after Labor Day and the weather has started to cool down, why not start the game at 12:30 like NYCFC did with their game against San Jose? A west coast team playing at what would feel like 9:30am has the potential to be a huge advantage.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      The club probably cannot influence the start time as much as the potential TV audience can.

      • That might be true, but I would think that a local channel like PHL-17 would be willing to work with the Union as there probably isn’t that big a ratings difference. I’m pretty sure the home team has most if not all of the say on non-national games (excluding end of the season league mandated start times). If the visiting team had input, the game in San Jose would be a 10pm ET start rather than 11.

  15. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Marco Fabian does not have the pace to play in the match in its first 30 minutes.
    Monteiro seemed to be sucking wind a bit after that half an hour. Picault and Aaronson went all out all the time.
    The best comment above is One Man Wolfpack, “… the fastest soccer game I have ever watched in person.” LAFC’s overall team speed is impressive. Curtin put his fastest team possible on the field, especially in the midfield.

  16. A fair final score, a great (but nervous crowd) and some compelling soccer.

    At the end of the game my kids were bitter (thought it should have been a PK) and here’s what I told them.

    LAFC is probably one of the strongest MLS teams in the history of the league. We just went toe-to-toe with them and had our fair share of chances to beat them outright.

    Guess what that makes us?!

    All that said, Fafa had two glorious chances to drop an onion and blew it. I love his hustle, his passion etc. but if we’re going to win it all he (or another striker) has to finish those shots!

    • Santos missed an amazing chance, too. The boys will be rueing those missed opportunities. They should be proud of the dray, but they know they could have taken all 3.

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