Commentary / The Overlap / Union

The Overlap: Where do we go from here?

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Well, heck.

After weeks of playing poorly, looking out of sorts, and generally underwhelming the fanbase, the Union looked like themselves—rather, the best version of themselves—on Saturday night. They blew Toronto FC away, 4–0, before substitutions and some pretty great ball-striking from Lorenzo Insigne and Richie Laryea made the scoreline less embarrassing for the visitors.

As such, rather than heading into the pivotal CCL semifinal matchup with LAFC fully prepared for the Union to let them down, fans are now faced with the unexpected possibility that, maybe, just maybe, the Union are back? That the team that was the class of MLS last year and traded blows in MLS Cup with their glitzy upcoming opponents has remembered how to play the way they want to? That Mikael Uhre has shaken off his early-season malaise for real this time?

Had the middling form of the season so far continued against TFC, it would have been easier for fans to shield themselves from disappointment. Say the Union had drawn, or won by a single goal—expectations for getting past LAFC would be well tempered, even taking into account the better fortunes of the Union in CCL play.

But now?

Now, anything could happen. There’s no telling. LAFC only managed a draw versus Nashville this week, and Nashville played in a diamond-midfield formation. As good as Nashville may be, the Union are better at playing the diamond. So that must mean that the Union will smash LA at Subaru Park, right?

Then again, Insigne managed to squirm behind Nate Harriel on Saturday for his goal and, let’s be real, Denis Bouanga is having a better season than Insigne by a country mile—anyone want to bet whether he’s capable of doing the same thing to Harriel?

That said, with Jack McGlynn starting, the Union just took TFC apart, time and time again, releasing the three-headed monster on the Canadians’ backline without mercy.

But isn’t TFC kind of crap? Maybe it’s just a case of the Union finally beating a team they “should” beat.

Kai Wagner looked good, though. He seemed actually back to full fitness. He really makes the team whole.

Tracking Carlos Vela is probably a bigger ask than tracking Richie Laryea, however, no offense to Laryea.


Hopes up? Rose glasses on? Or full Negadelphia? Is there a place in between those poles? Fans will have to keep their own council on what will prepare them best for Wednesday.

Bits and bobs

McGlynn over Flach seems the obvious call, now. McGlynn has proved himself sturdy enough defensively that he now must start most games. Perhaps the return leg in LA will see a Flach start, but at home it would be timid from Jim Curtin not to start McGlynn. Having two players, in McGlynn and Jose Martinez, who can initiate play from the base of midfield is invaluable. McGlynn’s eye for different kinds of passes also makes those around him, specifically Martinez, Wagner, and Daniel Gazdag, more likely to move in inventive and attacking ways and always leaves open the possibility of a seeing-eye ball over the top to the strikers. His ability forces opposing teams to respect every other Union player in space.

Daniel Gazdag is really good, it turns out. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion when he arrived from Hungary, nor through his first season. A few seasons on and Gazdag has joined the fifty combined goals and assists club for the Union, doing it in record time. He’s easily the most effective attacking player in Union history, with respect to Seba Le Toux, Tranquillo Barnetta, and Borek Dockal, each of whom had their moments. While he may harbor ambitions of a move to a higher-profile European league, his age (27) means he may be that rare player who is lights-out in MLS but doesn’t get the big move elsewhere and the Union can enjoy his talents for another four or five years.

Could the subs have come earlier? With an eye toward Wednesday, it was a bit surprising that Curtin waited as long as he did to substitute some of his starters. Then again, it’s good that he did it at all, given his tendencies in that department. It’s also notable how much Toronto got back into the game once McGlynn and Bedoya were off the field, so maybe the delay was reasonable.

Who starts at right back? Nate Harriel got the start on Saturday. We can’t know whether he would have started had Olivier Mbaizo been fit, as Mbaizo was out with a mild hamstring injury. Curtin said he hoped Mbaizo would be available for the LA match but that doesn’t answer the question of who should start. Harriel is a better defender but he did allow Insigne to get behind him for the Italian’s golazo and he was at least in part at fault for the goals last week while playing out of position at left back. All of that said, he is probably the better option against LA’s attackers.


  1. Eric Boyle says:

    I would just add that LA rested half of their starting XI against Nashville.

  2. The rest isn’t as important, I think, for the home team. And if there’s one thing Curtin has very rarely done, it’s rotate his squad. The performance against Toronto, sharp, incisive attacks right through the middle, have me feeling pretty good about our chances on Wednesday, especially at The Soob. Will be cool and a little damp, very Un-LA. Perfect for us.

  3. 40% rain during game time.

    NOT as bad as the past 2, but maybe that can work in our favor too!

    And please, NO SoCal Surfer kit, traditional blue. Please.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I’m sure it is fluctuating, but Weather Channel has it at 18% chance of rain at game time. It will be chilly though.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Full disclosure, I am going to the game. It will be my 5th so far this season. I would like to go to one where I didn’t get wet, frozen, or both.

  4. Gruncle Bob says:

    LA is a buzz saw right now. I don’t think it’s overly negative to think that over a 2 legs our lads have a chance, but it’s not that great.

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      If the Union can win at home, especially with a clean sheet, there is a real chance. Fail to win, or give up multiple goals, and the chances go way down.

  5. santo bevacqua says:

    I love the Philly Futball Page, the name of the sport is futball(football) not soccer………the game will be tough, the Union will come out on top, the momentum from the win with TFC the home crowd and field advantage will be enough to get a victory.

    • If the founders of this page had called it the Philly Football Page, 50% of the comments would be from confused Eagles fans. Another 25% that would just be some variation on the theme “soccer blows.” Maybe all 75% of those comments would be “soccer blows.”

      • santo bevacqua says:

        It is a travesty that a sport which uses feet primarily and no hands is called soccer. A sport which primarily uses hands is called football. Enough said an american mystery to me…?????!!!!!!!

      • You’ll get no argument from me. The NFL’s version should be called throwball. But there’s no need to get bent out of shape over ‘soccer’ It’s used widely in Ireland, South Africa, Australia, etc. Was used a lot more often in the UK until relatively recently. It’s just short for Association in Association Football.

    • “The word “soccer” is a British invention that British people stopped using only around 40 years ago, according to a 2014 paper by University of Michigan professor Stefan Szymanski. The word “soccer” comes from the use of the term “association football” in Britain, and goes back 200 years.”

      so Soccer not football. Never been Futball in English.

  6. I have to say that if I was the team that LAFC was supposed to be playing this weekend, I’d be pissed that the league let them reschedule. But its likely to bite LA in the ass later in the season as they already have 1 rescheduled game to make up.

    • Coddling of the ‘dear, spoiled child’ LAFC, right Don “Grabmoremoney”?

      The highlights of the Nashville game showed me a lot. We can beat these guys 2-0, then go to LA next week, 0-0… moving on to the Final.


      PS: Traditional Blue and Gold, please. NO SoCal Surfer kit for this game.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        I am with you on this one. LAFC should not have been allowed to reschedule. No one let us reschedule when we had 11 down with Covid. We were supposed to just Suck It Up.

    • Whoever wins this tie will have to have two MLS league games rescheduled. There are league games scheduled midweek during the scheduled time of the Final series. So it’s likely going to get worse with schedule congestion.
      If I’m Houston I’m definitely pissed. They’re playing well, and when they do play the rescheduled game they’ll likely be without their captain if he is called to play with El Tri.

  7. Deez Nuggs says:

    Nothing scares me more than the way this series is getting hyped up all over: expected to be Epic, craziness is guaranteed, Jakob Glesnes, “gift from God”. I think the Union have a real chance, but the hype is weirding me out. And yes, I totally get why neutrals are hyped.
    I think McGlynn gets the start. Mbaizo too, if he’s ready.
    But, you HAVE TO start Damien Lowe, right? Our fastest defender? The one person with any likelihood that could chase down Bouanga if/when gets behind?

  8. Like the idea of 5 across the back, including Martinez in the middle. Lowe MUST be included… and allow the front 5 to be creative… Sullivan and McGlynn get the start.

    Captain and Flach, 60 min or sooner replacements.

  9. Pepito, The Biggest Cat in the Whole World says:

    Union have a chance against anybody, especially in the home leg. But it’s hard for me to get over the difference in quality the two teams have showed so far this season. LAFC has been rolling and even in the Union’s best game since week 1, they looked lost for most of the second half on defense. Hopefully the better first half was the sign of things to come.
    Best chance we have is to try and run up the score at home and ride out the second leg. In my heart though, I think we get merked by an LAFC team whose offense has been better than our offense and whose defense has given up half the number of goals we’ve given up.

  10. Watching the Leon – Tigres match, man was that what I would call a ‘dirty match’. Villarreal called a good game but those guys down south sure so like to grab and not let go.

    THAT will frustrate the Union…. but we WILL best LA, and on to the finals.

    It’s our Cup to lose.


  11. No matter what, tonight will be the best match of the year, so far. Should be fun. Doop!

  12. Chiming in to say – a scoreless draw BETTER than winning while conceding (2-1, 3-2 etc)

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