Union match reports

Match report: LAFC 2-2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: John Osbourn

The Philadelphia Union took their talents to Los Angeles on Saturday for a top-of-the-table clash with a reborn LAFC.

An entertaining affair ended in a 2-2 draw, the Union knowing that slightly better finishing would’ve afforded them the points.

The opening minutes of the match were end to end, though LAFC had the lion’s share of chances.

Against the run of play, in the 9th minute Julian Carranza danced through the LAFC midfield, slid the ball wide to Kai Wagner, and the German hit a bending ball to the far post that found Daniel Gazdag’s foot – the Hungarian didn’t miss. Just like that, the Union had a lead for the fourth match in a row. With the assist, Kai Wagner moved into a tie with Jamiro Monteiro on the Union’s all-time list with 21.

The Union grew into the half after those early moments, and though the hosts had a bevy of chances in the first half, few were of much quality – the closest was in the 44th minute, when a close-range header from Sebastien Ibeagha off a Carlos Vela corner went just wide of Andre Blake’s net. The Union took a lead into the break after a half in which they conceded two-thirds of both possession and shots (very on-brand), knowing that awaiting them on the other side was the league’s best second half team.

Both teams had chances in the second half’s first five minutes, LAFC in a scrum in front of net and the Union on a leaping Cory Burke header that the Jamaican skied into the warm Southern California night – LAFC made the Union pay moments later.

A miscommunication and a bad clearance in the 57th minute left the Union out of shape and outnumbered. Some nice interplay sprung Kwadwo Opoku on the left side of the box and his near-post blast left Andre Blake grasping air. It wasn’t an unfair tally, but certainly uncharacteristic for the Union to concede in such a manner – and yet the fourth match in a row the team had taken a lead only to see it evaporate.

Ten minutes later, the Union again switched fields from right to left. Instead of a cross, Gazdag dribbled back to the middle and slipped a pass to Julian Carranza near the top of the box. Surrounded by defenders and falling to the bumpy turf, the Argentinian impossibly curled a left-footed shot into the upper left corner of the net, giving the Union another lead. A moment after that, Sergio Santos made his debut and nearly put a header on frame.

The game was opening up, all the coach-speak and minimization about the fixture’s lack of importance melting away to reveal a sharp, contested tie. As tempers grew, the Concacaf-y Union made their 2022 debut: frustrating the Black and Gold at every turn and finding time to enjoy a lie down as often as necessary.

The Union cleared an LAFC chance off the line, then wasted a man advantage on the other end – Santos missing a wide open Carranza. An obvious LAFC red card was given a yellow and not reviewed, but the clock continued to tick. Then, off a set piece, LAFC found their equalizer again.

Carranza lost his man on the back post of a corner and Franco Escobar needed two chances to beat Blake, but had enough time to do so. It was a mental mistake, but one that wouldn’t have mattered quite as much had the Union done their part on offense. They missed the passing vision of Mikeal Uhre to compliment Gazdag and Carranza, no question.

In the end, the two best teams in the league were just that.

Philadelphia Union

Blake, Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Harriel, Martinez (McGlynn), Flach, Bedoya, Gazdag, Carranza, Burke (Santos, 64′)

Unused subs: McGlynn, Freese, Mbaizo, Findlay, Sullivan, Aaronson, Real, Bueno


Crepeau, Palcios, Fall, Ibeagha, Escobar, Sanchez (Blessing,74′), Opoku (Musovski, 73′), Acosta, Cifuentes, Vela, Arango

Unused subs: Jennigs, Ginella, Leone, Hollingshead, McCarthy

Scoring summary

PHI – Gazdag, 9′

LA – Opoku, 57′

PHI – Carranza, 67′

LA – Escobar, 82′

Discipline summary

LA – Palacios, 77′

PHI – Santos, 83′

PHI – Elliot, 90+3′


  1. We went from “Wow Curtin has 4 strikers to mix and match with this is going to go great!” to “OMG we need better back up strikers this summer!” in 10 whole games.

    • Yeah this is concerning. I heard that Uhre got injured but I missed how, and the diagnosis and prognosis. The Union need him back as soon as possible.
      With that said, the chemistry between Gazdag and Carranza continues to improve and should be a source of joy for a while. I’m hopeful that they can find a third, fourth, or fifth Musketeer to join the attack. Perhaps McGlynn, Aaronson, and Sullivan will start getting into sync with them as the game density should force squad rotation.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    I look at this game … and maybe I’ll naive… but we are “ok”? Like we are good yes. But not sure we’re great. Could be… yeah. Not there yet. I definitely didn’t think 1-0 wouldn’t win it but I also didn’t think 2-1 would either. They drew us in their house. I’ll fuckin take it. Game on… we are very good? I don’t man. Someone tell me how to feel. Haha

    • More than OK… we need some tweeking, ONLY, not an overhaul like so many other years.

      We’re good… obviously one of the Top Teams in MLS last 3 years. No denying it.

      In Herr Tanner we trust.
      Curtin too!

    • soccerdad720 says:

      hey wolf pack…here’s my take….I missed it all, went to bed early and was busy all this morning. I just came here to find the result; expecting a close loss. I saw it was 2-2 and said….HECK YES. We went toe-to-toe with #1 team in MLS, in their house, and came away with a point. That’s exactly what good teams do. We are good.

      With MLS being an any-given-sunday kind of league, will we have our troubles? You bet. But Union are one of the top teams in this league. Doop!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      It’s the 8th straight game the Union have scored first but the 4th straight without a win. So great? No. Great can protect the lead more frequently.

  3. lopezzzz says:

    I was at the game so at times it was hard to keep track of him, but Burke seemed to add nothing. Santos needs to not look for a foul every time he enters the box. Bedoya needs to come off around the 60’ for his and the team’s good. Nice point but it was there for the taking.

    • Greg Williams says:

      Agree with all of this 100%

    • Burke wins the majority of 50/50 balls! Thats about all he contributes…but it is not nothing. THIS WAS THE GAME for Uhre uggggg. I’m almost ready to give up on santos, my former favorite union player for his sense of humor and pace, but hes a baby who makes terrible decisions and should have created 3 XG

  4. 3 hand balls?… Burke.

    Too fast for turf?… Santos

    Too many passes to nowhere, again?… Martinez

    Gassed after 45 min?… Bedoya, again.

    Did not hear what was wrong but, injured again?… Uhre. Someone please home cook for that kid, please. Homesickness is NOT an adult illness.

    Strikers…. almost like ‘strike anywhere matches’ that just won’t light… yet. [Except for Carannza].

    We lost 4 Points in last 2 matches… couldn’t close out other good, but lesser squads… T-E-A-M.

    Come back home…. beat up on those NY ‘Energy Drinks’… retain 1st place in East… D-O-O-P!

    And that LA coach? Was he watching the same game I did? Seems he feels possession, NOT goals, should be the determining factor at the end of the match… Right?

    The best fielded squad in our history… on the way to hosting MLS Cup 2022 in Chester!

    • Peanut Gallery says:

      “Someone please home cook for that kid, please. Homesickness is NOT an adult illness.”

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I thought they said at the start of the match that it was a quad injury for Uhre which is not homesickness.
      It’s not 4 points in 2 matches, it’s 9 points in the last 4 matches that they blew.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Just finished watching the post game show and they definitely said it was a quad injury.

  5. I know the popular narrative is we left points on the board (and keep losing leads which is getting old), but if you would have told me that we got draws in our supposedly two toughest road matches of the year, I can only take that as a positive. Outstanding defense again from the Union.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      100% proper read.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      No one looked at the calendar and marked this one down as a likely win. A draw is a great result. To think maybe it could have been more is a mark of how good the Union are.

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    By season’s end this team will be one of top teams in the conference if not the league. I feel it’s easy to see dropped point here dropped points there but they are sitting on 1 loss after ten games and 19 points which translates to almost 60 points by season’s end…. Ridiculous numbers.
    At this point I’m not personally concerned with a Supporters Shield (which incidentally they are only 4 points of the pace of) — I seek to watch them play well, play better, get better and better over the long term which translates in a run to MLS Cup. Where everything coalesces at the needed time.
    People are seeing dropped points with complaint and I’m seeing a team earning points they never earned in the past and moving first from a place of Gratitude.
    I got into a tet for tet with someone on Twitter about Gazdag being a ‘terrible passer’ and I love how over each game he’s putting that silly comment to bed. Guy dropped some dimes out there, one to Corey who just fumbled it cause he doesn’t have the feet- and of course slotted one to Carranza. Everyone loves Carranza. I get it. Daniel Gazdag is the best player on the team. Period.
    Higginbotham has it so right. The understanding of space and how to use it individually / collectively is so far in advance of players we’ve seen here for years. They make an easy game — appear easy.
    Union flew to LA and gave that team everything it could handle. LA is very very good.

    • One of the best already… 3 years running… after a decade of bonehead management decsions.

      … and leaving points on the table SHOULD be unacceptable. DOOP.

    • Amen, sir. People getting spoiled. Every commentator in MLS knows that we are now one of the league’s beasts. The only people who don’t know seem to be a few cranks on this here site.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      When my son and I sat down to watch, I commented: “This is a Gazdag game. If we get through the press, he’ll have space to operate.” Looks like I was on the mark. Great game from him!

    • Gazdag and Carranza, and I would say Bedoya and Martinez, understand that it takes a superb first pass or good second pass to beat the press. This was a Gazdag game and he showed why.

  7. LAFC = 2.3 points per match

    we should be happy about this result I guess?

    Not. Blake’s. Night.

    • I didn’t watch the game, just the highlights, but I was gonna ask whether Blake seemed off on the night. The usual one who wears a cape and an S on his chest would’ve saved that first goal, I’d say.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Not much more he can do with the second one. He saved the first attempt. On the first goal, though, he probably expected to do better. Blake played the odds and blocked low and far corner; Opoku went near post and lifted it.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Except for 2 occasions (and the second was after about the 43rd corner kick), the defense was really strong so Blake didn’t have the opportunities to shine that he did against Nashville.

  8. Am I just a complete homer or are the Union getting hosed on nonreviewed orange cards? Is seems like for several games in a row, the refrain is red card that was ruled a yellow. The ref totally lost control of the game at the end. Multiple yellow cards should have been issued for the scrum

    • Bedoya got kicked right on the shin intentionally in clear site…yet VAR wasn’t used to give the red!

      • I generally hate the histrionics and flopping about but in this case I think if Bedoya goes down instead of waving his finger at the player it might’ve been a different outcome

    • Agree on the finger wave! Bedoya is way too experienced to not be able to draw a red card out of this… At least the ref redeemed himself somewhat by completely dismissing the melee at the end of the game without even a yellow. Jack ICE IN THE VEINS McGlynn pulling out wrestling moves i love it

  9. If they give up that many corner kicks, the other team is gonna eventually score.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      The data on corner kicks says the opposite. The defending team is more likely to score on a counter than the attacking team on the kick itself. All part of the plan.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        A lot depends on how you defend corner kicks. The Union very rarely get a counterattack off a corner, in part because they bring all 11 really deep in their own territory.

  10. It’s my opinion that it’s time to move on from Santos. He’s a Brazilian Danny Cruz, with all due respect to the hustle and heart of Danny Cruz.

    • they already have. He is not a starter when everyone is healthy. As a 3rd striker, he is OK.

      • John P. O'Donnell says:

        He has zero soccer IQ and never lifts his head on his shot or to pass. Just tries to out run everyone and shoot as hard as the can. When you have a player running with you and waving his hands and you never see him….

  11. I have a question…..

    Is the PPG stat a new stat on the MLS table?

    Not exactly sure why that is so important.

    Is it a new playoff tie breaker too?

    And if so… that’s just a silly stat.

    Who cares how many points per game we get at the end of the season? I would care more about goals per game, or just goal differential than points per game.


    • I don’t think it is a “new” stat. It is a formula to back up the “Ugh…Burke should have scored there” statements with some math. Or something.

      • Sorry. My bad. I thought you were talking about xG. Reading is fundamental…and I didn’t.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I assume it’s been a stat forever, but I recall that it came to prominence during the pandemic year when they were trying to figure out how to maintain a table when teams wouldn’t end the season playing an equal number of games.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Except when COVID happens and not everyone plays the same number of games a la 2020, PPG is not a playoff tiebreaker (since everyone has the same number of games). During the season, when some teams have played 3 more games than others, it’s potentially useful to see where your team really stands.

  12. Evildunk99 says:

    I don’t understand the negativity of some. This is the hardest stretch of the schedule IMO. Salvaging 2 pts @Nash and @LA is phenomenal, especially considering we are playing nowhere near our ceiling. Those teams should be pissed after playing us. With USOC, NYRB on tap, and exhausting travel mixed in, I think we are in great shape.

    • Best fielded squad in franchise history…

      Top 3 teams in MLS last 3 years, I believe also.

      And ‘we’re from Philly, no one likes us’!

      In Herr Tanner we trust.
      Curtin too.

  13. Best fielded squad in franchise history…

    Top 3 teams in MLS last 3 years, I believe also.

    And ‘we’re from Philly, no one likes us’!

    In Herr Tanner we trust.
    Curtin too.

  14. narbrich says:

    The comments are mostly spot-on. I stayed up to watch what I thought was a very entertaining match. The good, the mediocre and the bad seems to be on display in every match, and if I can see it, I don’t know how Jim Curtin can miss it.
    1) Let’s compare Cory Burke to Sergio Santos for one minute: Burke is stronger, more physical and possibly, more durable. That’s it. In every other respect, speed, ability with the ball at the player’s feet, shooting, even passing, Santos is far superior. We expect more when Santos is in and we are disappointed when we do not get it. On the critical side, Sergio goes down too easily and for that reason, he does not get calls that otherwise would be troublesome for most refs, like the foul in the box around the 80th minute which very easily could have been called. But not for a player who falls down when he is breathed upon.
    2) Carranza looks like the real deal to me. His shot for the second goal was a thing of beauty. In the Union’s system, though, he needs to play defense on set pieces and he got exposed. I will gladly forgive him, though, because defense can be taught, and the Union’s offense at this stage, especially from open play, is more important.
    3) Ale Bedoya is a 60 minute man. Please give him a break, Jim!
    4) LAFC were a formidable opponent playing at home. A draw is a good result which any of us would have taken before the match was played. LAFC had the better of the play, period.
    5) Martinez was clearly injured in about the 50th minute and played gamely after that, but I think that one of the kids at 100% might have been better than Jose at 75%. Jose is a warrior, though, and he is more than worthy of our respect. Thankfully, he did not get a yellow card this match.
    5) I thought that Flach had an excellent game. He frequently disrupted and harassed LAFC when they tried to go forward.

  15. Can anyone who has more tactical knowledge than I suggest a new formation? The diamond doesn’t make sense to me if Flach (Who deserves to be on the field due to defense and work rate) is weak in attack.

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