Match previews

Match preview: LAFC vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 0-0-1, 0 points, 13th place in the East) vs. LAFC (1-0-0, 3 points, 8th place in the West)
What: 2020 regular season match
Where: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
When: Sunday, March 7 at 10:30 p.m. (Eastern)
Watch: FS1
Whistle: Referee: Chris Penso. Assistant Referees: Corey Rockwell, Jeremy Hanson. 4th Official: Alex Chilowicz. VAR: Ian Anderson

After a lackluster effort in their 2-0 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday, the last thing the Union need is to get on a plane, fly across the country and play a night game against the best team in MLS (if not North America). 

But that is exactly what the Union have in store for themselves on Sunday.  

Coming off short rest following a big CONCACAF Champions League win over Leon, LAFC didn’t look their sharpest,  but it was enough to earn a 1-0 win over expansion team Inter Miami thanks to a sweet chip over the goaltender by Carlos Vela.  With a full week off, expect LAFC to return to full form on Sunday.

When the schedule came out, it was easy to mark this, an away game against a Western Conference team early in the season, as a Union loss if for no other reason than indifference.  But after last week’s showing the Union will need to step up the effort and try to steal a point (or three).

Scouting Report: LAFC

LAFC likes to attack, and – will do so relentlessly.  And why not? With the quality they have up front in Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez, and Latif Blessing to name just a few, LAFC will go forward with numbers and attack the opponents goal. One does not need to watch the team for long to see why they were last year’s most dominant team and eventual Supporter’s Shield winners.

At their core, LAFC is a possession team.  Using a 4-4-3, LAFC likes to push the mids forward and the backs into a high line. Rossi and Vela will pinch in off the wings and the mids and forwards will switch and interchange the lines. Right back Tristan Blackmon will often tuck inside to try and draw a defender and isolate Vela on the wing. When LAFC loses the ball, they are quick to counterpress, win the ball back and attack. Its no wonder LAFC tied the league record last year with 85 goals.

If LAFC has a weakness it is in their backline.  Last year it was anchored by all-star and USMNT player Walker Zimmerman but he was surprisingly sent off to Nashville this off-season with Dejan Jackovich filling his spot. The dynamic offense  protects the defense through their high possession percentage and fear of an attack can keep opposing mids and wingers on their back heels. With everyone pushing forward LAFC can be vulnerable to the counterattack.

It would be difficult to foresee any major change in tactics against the Union as their formula has been successful against all comers. LAFC has a Champions League game next Thursday but they do not have an MLS game the following weekend so it is unlikely that coach Bob Bradley will rest anyone.

Injury Report:  OUT: Adama Diomande (F), Bradley Wright-Phillips (F)

Suspended:  None

Scouting report: Union

The Union weren’t able to get on the scoreboard in their first match of the new season and it will be incumbent on the team to score early and often.

Expect Philadelphia to come out in their standard issue 4-4-2 diamond with the same lineup as last week vs Dallas. Manager Jim Curtin gave no indication that Warren Creavalle or Jakob Glesnes would not reprise their starting roles as the No. 6 and right center back respectively. But don’t be too surprised if they show something more exotic like the 3-5-2 that’s been talked about. This formation would allow Jack Elliot to get on the pitch and add another strong leg to drop some passes over the top of the LAFC back line. 

In last year’s match vs. LAFC, Kai Wagner drew the Vela assignment and did quite the job keeping him in check.  The Union won’t have that luxury this time as Wagner is still out with his calf injury so Matt Real will certainly have his hands full – and don’t expect to see him go forward much.

 For the Union to compete, they will need to:

  • Play tough, physical defense – keep the forwards off their runs.
  • Win the ball and counter quickly  – make good, confident service to the forwards before LAFC can recover.
  • Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos will need to take full advantage of their opportunities.

Simple, right?

Injury Report

OUT: Kai Wagner (D)

QUESTIONABLE: Andrew Wooten (F)

Suspension Report:  None

Key Matchup:  Union Midfield vs LAFC Midfield

With the firepower LAFC has, allowing them to keep possession in their attacking third will most certainly lead to bad outcomes for the Union. The Union midfield must blow up the LAFC build before it has the opportunity to get the ball on the feet of their front three.

Player to Watch: Carlos Vela

Just trust me on this one –  Vela is the best player in the league.

Prediction:  LAFC 2-1 Philadelphia

The Union will put up a good fight in a quality game but LAFC is just a bit too much to handle on the road.


  1. I know see Bradley’s secret formula for winning:
    “Using a 4-4-3, LAFC likes to push the mids forward and the backs into a high line.”

  2. We need to employ the Diego Simeone “Let’s stop Liverpool” defense — 6-3-1. It worked for Atletico, Watford and Chelsea. Play that low block and try to drag out a draw. If you score by some miracle, Just back that bus into the box and let it idle.

  3. pragmatist says:

    It’s a long season. Starting 0-2 isn’t horrible when you take into account the opponents and the situations. But it would be great to grab a point this weekend. And things need to get on the winning path next weekend.
    I’m concerned by “Matt Real will certainly have his hands full – and don’t expect to see him go forward much.” So…we’ll have 2 outside backs not pressing. Seems somewhat limiting.
    Warren is great for closing out a game, but he offers about as much offense as Ray. If we are running out a lineup that will effectively sit back and absorb pressure, it will not go well. Hopefully there are some developments on the horizon that we don’t know about.

    • I hear you, but I think this game wasn’t one to expect either outside back to get forward too much. We’re not likely to have enough sustained possession to expect our fullbacks to get high up the field to put crosses in.
      If the Union are to come away with anything, I think Santos will have to play well. There will be plenty of space to run into behind the LAFC back line, and plenty of long balls for him to chase. If we can keep LAFC off the board until half time, then I’ll start to let myself feel some hope for a result.

  4. Blake blows says:

    If we put out that lineup with the same formation then expect 3-0/ 4-1 to LA. I keep seeing the word lackluster to describe the game against Dallas. How a team could look so bad in their first game puzzles me: I thought there’d be a lot more energy and fight for a team that placed 3rd last year. Although, when your goalie can’t stop a medicine ball rolling towards the goal I get it. Had we won or drawn at Dallas I wouldn’t be bothered. However, that team didn’t show up. Now we’re content with 0-2 again for how many years….? I’m annoyed that everyone is ok with that. I’ll be in row 5 in 122 crapping on these guys until they produce. If we’re bottom table in June , i’m done. Union can’t keep me 2 g’s. I’ll save it the next ten years.
    10 year STH!

  5. 0-4 LAFC; first goal occurs before minute 20; Union finish with under 2 shots on target
    We all go to bed mad at ourselves for deciding to stay up late and watch it.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      That’s a very negative view, but sadly kinda realistic. I think they put up a solid fight though.

  6. Joe. Barnett says:

    Union will come out with tons of energy in first 15 of game. Pressing hoping to get a quick goal. Hope it works and they go up quickly 5o get some confidence going. I think Real will be up to the challenge. He has some speed and plays aggressively. Hope he does not get another yellow or red card. Aaronson needs to make the accurate pass and correct decisions
    Kacsper will put it away if he gets a clean shot. Hope they connect early and often.Hoping they come out hard and finish strong.

  7. “The best team (if not North America)…” I get the LAFC is playing great football, but that comment seems more of a wish that an analysis. The opinion is bold based on the fact that no MLS team has ever won that title. Mexican teams always win it. Sorting out Leon FC in the very first stage of the knock out round is not enough to speculate like that, unless, like I stated, it is the wish/hope of the writer.

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