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Night games and narratives

Photo credit: 215pix

There must be counter-intuitive reasons to schedule a nationally broadcast game featuring an east coast team for a 10:30PM kickoff. On a Sunday the day after Daylight Savings Time began. Because at face value it’s absolutely baffling that FS1 chose to showcase one of MLS’s best atmospheres at a time when most casual fans are in bed. If we’re being honest with ourselves, plenty of more-than-casual fans too.

So it’s understandable that not everyone was awake to see what happened in Banc of California Stadium. Which means it’s all-too-easy to underplay what happened. Early season chaos allowed a plucky Union team to steal a point from “the best team in MLS”, right?

Not exactly.

First off, describing the performance the Union put in as “plucky” makes it sound as if they played like the underdogs, defeating a clearly superior opponent through cunning and fortuitous chance. But that’s not the game that anyone who actually saw the game will describe. Despite being the second stop on a season-opening road trip, despite several new players that can’t be expected to be fully integrated into the team, and despite a frustratingly inconsistent referee in Chris Penso, the Union went toe to toe with LAFC and never seemed to be outclassed.

Consider this- LAFC raked in a +48 goal differential last season. Yet despite that obvious offensive firepower, they never lead on Sunday night. Granted, the Union surrendered the lead three times, not exactly great news. But with two new players on the backline (Norwegian import and freekick wizard Jakob Glesnes, and homegrown Matt Real who’s role in 2019 was essentially insignificant) perfection cannot be expected. In fact paired with the promising future of Mark McKenzie (another homegrown, and headed to the Olympic qualifying tournament) there’s plenty of reason for defensive optimism despite letting in three unfortunate goals.

Which is essentially the point. No matter how valuable any road point is in MLS, the Union did not win on Sunday night. There’s no way to sugar coat that. But as power rankings and other such league-wide discussions happen over the next few days, pay attention to who is talking about the Union and how. If they’re effusive over LAFC’s determination to win, while talking about Philly being lucky, or downplaying the result, consider the possibility that the person saying that may not have been awake with the rest of us, watching the game. Otherwise they would have seen a team that flew over two thousand miles across the country and still looked more than capable of beating an LAFC that hasn’t left southern California since mid-February.

Don’t sleep on the Union. Even if you were asleep on Sunday night.

6 Comments

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    The Union haven’t trailed LAFC since their game in 2018. Unfortunately, they’ve also blown the lead 4 times since then.

  2. There were multiple points during the match where I considered turning off the sound. Had it been Lalas in the booth, I certainly would have.

  3. In Tanner We Trust says:

    I’m extremely pleased with what I saw. They battled so many obstacles and almost pulled out 3 points. So glad I decided to stay up. Cannot wait for Saturday, it’s been too long.

  4. James Dunn says:

    The union are showing how a team can improve with coaching continuity and using the homegrown players. Good job!

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    An excellent and welcomed change from what we saw in Dallas in the opener. I am looking forward to kicking SJ’s ass on Saturday

  6. Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

    It’s one game

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