Match previews

Match preview: LAFC vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who:  LAFC (7-1-1, 22 points, 1st place in the West) vs Philadelphia Union (2022: 5-1-3, 18 points, 1st place in the East)

What: 2022 MLS Regular Season (Week 10).

Where: Banc of California Stadium

When: Saturday, May 7th at 11:00 p.m. ET

Watch: PHL 17; MLS LIVE on ESPN+

Whistle: Unavailable at time of publication

The Philadelphia Union, currently top of the Eastern Conference, travel west on Saturday to take on LAFC, currently top of the Western Conference, in what is certainly the match of the weekend in MLS.

This match will be the forth time these two sides have met; LAFC won the first contest back in 2018, with the last two games in 2019 and 2020 ending in draws.  LAFC is the only team the Union have played but have never beaten in its MLS history.

LAFC’s 2-0 win last weekend over Minnesota United took them to 22 points through nine games, matching their best start in club history (2019).  The Union earned a 1-1 draw at Nashville on Sunday, taking them to 18 points, which is their most through nine games in club history.

The Union will be looking to change their lackluster fortunes when facing Wester Conference teams on the road, having won only four of their 27 games since the start of the 2016 season (0-14-9).

For the neutral fan, a repeat of these two sides’ last match would be most welcome. The last game before the pandemic shut down MLS, it produced a wild back-and-forth 3-3 draw and included this historic Jakob Glesnes banger:

Scouting Report: LAFC

The 2022 campaign could not have gotten off to a better start for the black and gold.  They currently sit at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings and they are getting production from all over their roster with 12 players tallying goals.  In the past, LAFC more or less lived and died by the performances of their star playmakers.  In 2022, under first-year manager Steve Cherundolo, the performance of their substitutes has been the more applicable performance indicator.

Last week against Minnesota United, newcomer defender Ryan Hollingshead and midfielder Jose Cifuentes provided the goals leading to their 2-0 victory.  Both players coming off the bench.  The goals represented the seventh and eight goals by LAFC substitutes this season.

“As you saw and you’ve seen this season, a lot of games have been won in the second half,” Cherundolo said. “And I think that is maybe a little bit of a secret to our success is being able to put on fresh legs with enough quality to change the dynamic of a game.”

LAFC have a +13 goal differential in the second half: 13 goals scored, 0 goals conceded.

All of this is not to say that Cherundolo doesn’t have a selection of high profile players to march out in his starting eleven, usually in the form of 4-1-4-1.

The most obvious being winger Carlos Vela, a bona fide MLS superstar with 4 goals and 3 assists to his name so far this year.

At striker is Cristian Arango. The 2021 MLS Newcomer of the Year award winner, Arango’s 2022 campaign has gotten off to a bit of slow start, having found the net just twice thus far in MLS (he also netted two more goals in the third round of the U.S Open Cup).  But he found the net 14 times last year, finishing second in the league in goals per 90. Needless to say, he is a threat to score.

In the midfield is newcomer and USMNT player Kellyn Acosta, who has provided LAFC with some stability on the defensive side of the ball.

Injury Report: OUT: Eddie Segura (knee), Erik Duenas (knee), Julian Gaines (pelvis), Brian Rodriguez (hamstring) Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (quad). QUESTIONABLE: Doneil Henry (hamstring)

Suspension Report: None

Scouting Report: Union

The Union currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, but are in a bit of a sluggish stretch. Although earning a point on the road at the high-energy opening of GEODIS Park in Nashville last week can be viewed as a positive performance, the team is now winless in their last three matches (0-1-2). Adding to that frustration is the fact that the team had been ahead in all three of those matches.

A trip to the other side of the country to take on MLS’ best team is not the ideal fixture for turning things around.

With that said, the Union are not playing poorly by any means and certainly have the talent to find a result in this match against the league leaders.

A collective sigh of relief was exalted last Sunday when newcomer DP striker Mikael Uhre scored his first goal for the blue and gold. Daniel Gazdag provided a long ball over the top for Uhre to run onto, take a touch, make a move, and find the back of the net. The poise Uhre showed to beat his defender (which just so happened to be USMNT starter Walker Zimmerman) and create enough space to get a shot off is a type of skill that’s been lacking from the Union strikers in previous season. If this is indicator of the type of goal this team has the ability to score this year, the Union have plenty to be optimistic about offensively.

On the other side of the field, the Union have the best goalkeeper in MLS in Andre Blake, who’s six saves on Sunday was a huge reason the Union game away with a point. He’ll need to be on his game again this week against LAFC, who have netted 21 goals so far this year (2nd in MLS).

Injury Report: QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Santos (hamstring)

Suspension Report: None

Key Matchup: Jose Martinez vs LAFC press

The Union can expect a persistent press from LAFC in this match.  Martinez has been one of the best No. 6’s in MLS this year, and he’ll need make smart decisions in this match, not just defensively but from a distribution standpoint as well.

Player to Watch: Ryan Hollingshead

The 31 year old veteran defender has been a huge contributor to the early success for LAFC, having notched 3 goals thus far.  Whether it’s as a starter or substitute, the Union will need to have eyes on Hollingshead in this match.

Prediction: LAFC 2 – 1 Union

A difficult match with a mid-week U.S Open Cup away fixture looming, the Union won’t break their winless run.

7 Comments

  1. The BIGGEST game of the year for this squad, will need a nap!

    At best, expecting a tie, 1-1… hard fought, defensive gem.

    At worst…. well, nah. We used to think that way, NOT anymore.

    LET’S GO U!
    DOOP!

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Unfortunately I’m going to be a victim of the late night start and probably won’t get to watch the game until Sunday evening as I’ve got a funeral to go to Sunday morning north of New York City. Not expecting much given how LAFC is playing but hoping for the best.

  3. Jolly Good Vela says:

    They don’t score enough goals at this juncture to be taken seriously against the league’s elite.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      Goals only win games. Defense wins championships.

    • Its too much to hope for that LA doesn’t take 1st place team in the east, 3rd place team in supporters shield and top point earning team over the last 3 seasons seriously.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

%d bloggers like this: