Match previews / Union

Match preview: LAFC vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: LAFC vs Philadelphia Union

What: Concacaf Champions League Semifinal Leg 2

Where: BMO Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

When: Tuesday, May 2, 10:00 PM

Watch: FS1, TUDN

Whistle: Referee Drew Fischer, AR 1 Kathryn Nesbitt, AR 2 Michael Barwegen, 4th off. Bryan López, VARs Fernando Guerrero Ramírez and Jorge Antonio Pérez Durán

This match-up got a lot of hype before the first leg, and deservedly so. These are two heavy hitters that had met four consecutive times, including last season’s MLS Cup Final, with nothing to separate them and a whole lot of flair along the way. And then the first leg of the CCL semifinal absolutely lived up to it. Defying the form chart, Philly came out and punched LA in the mouth again and again, eventually earning the go-ahead goal, only for LA to find a way to scrabble a goal before full-time. It was box office. And it’s all to play for in game two.

Scouting report: LAFC

Here’s a fun game: think of a way for a team to be successful in soccer. Possession? Set pieces? Counter-attacking? Hero ball by a big-money DP? Beautiful team goals? LA can do them all, and that’s a problem.

Carlos Vela and Denis Bouanga get the headlines, but Jose Cifuentes, Ilie Sanchez, and Kellyn Acosta all need to be accounted for, too, not to mention Ryan Hollingshead running up the wing from fullback. They are the best team in MLS and they have an away goal, which means that it’s incumbent on Philly to make things happen. That suits LA just fine, as they will be more than happy to hold Philly at arm’s length as long as possible and try and hit the Union on the break and from dead balls.

And should LA ever go behind, they clearly have a switch to flip that levels them up, without even saying anything about the raucous supporters at BMO.

In short, this team is as good as they were last season and maybe better, given how well Bouanga is playing. It will take a special effort to take something from them at home.

Injury report: None

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

All of that said, the one team able to consistently take something from LAFC at home has proven to be the Union. The last three games between them in Los Angeles have resulted in eight total goals, split evenly between the two teams. Philly knows they can score in LA.

Which is good, because they have to, probably more than once.

Luckily, the Union seem to have awakened. Last week’s first leg was easily their best showing of the season so far, with the only real regret being that they didn’t score more than once. Acosta’s late goal was unfortunate but not the result of a systemic failure. The team defended well, owned an equal amount of possession to LA, which is not normal for the Union, and the attacking trio of Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre, and Julian Carranza all looked dangerous.

Unfortunately, a big part of the Union’s success won’t be suiting up. Jose Martinez did not travel with the team, having suffered an apparent knee injury in the first leg. His ball-hawking and play-making from the base of midfield were invaluable last week. Even if his replacement, likely Leon Flach or Jose Bueno, plays well in his stead, no player replicates what Martinez does so well. Can the Union midfield be as dominant without that important cog?

Injury report: Jose Martinez (knee) OUT

Match-up to watch: Battle of the midfields

In Chester, the Union were able to bottle up LA’s midfield. If the rejiggered Philly midfield is able to continue that trend without Jose Martinez, things will be looking up. If not, then it’s going to be a much more chaotic game. That’s usually something the Union is comfortable with, but again, a lot of that comfort stems from Martinez. Coping with chaos isn’t as easy without him.

Player to watch: Mikael Uhre

If Uhre gets behind the LA back line and threatens on goal, that means the Union game plan is working effectively. If he is isolated and getting few touches, it’s likely the Union are struggling to create attacking chances.

Prediction: LAFC 2–2 Philadelphia Union

The Union come out with wild abandon and get a first-half goal. LA strikes back early in the second and then scores another after an hour. But Philly finds a second wind and scores a late goal of their own, winning the tie on away goals.


  1. Not sure this game is tailored to Urhe. As mentioned above, LA can afford to sit deep unless the U score the first goal. If LA sits deep, there wont be much room for Uhre to run into.
    Joe Tansey suggested that the U might try 3 in the back with a double pivot of Bedoya/McGlynn to contain LA’s midfield, which would be interesting to see.
    Going to be a late night…

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      I don’t know that it’s a game tailored for Uhre, but if Uhre is having success, then the Union are dictating what kind of game it is going to be, which is my point.

      • Yes – makes sense. And if the U manage to score the first goal and LA have to chase, he could have a very bug game!

    • LA sat back in leg one, and Uhre still found ways to get in behind them.

    • Tim Jones says:

      the 3-5-2 the Union played in Cincinnati did not seem to generate as much offensive pressure as the 4-4-2., and it is incumbent on the Union to score.

  2. With Martinez out, Flach #6, with 4 across behind him… McGlynn taking all set pieces… and replacements on at 60 minutes, Jim… PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.

    We CAN win this, outright.

    • Vince Devine says:

      I think that’s a recipe for a loss. Flach cannot shut down Bouanga and Vela like Martinez did. I think we go with a 3-5-2 or 4-2-3-1 set up, needing two defensive mids in this game.

  3. That’s a nice prediction. I honestly don’t feel terribly optimistic about this one. Would love to see the Union through, but goals have been too hard to come by. I’d sooner bet on some other last-minute way for this terrible team (LA) to do us. Sorry for the game-day downer. I’ll be watching and wishing with the rest of you.

    • Com’mon Pete… positive energy! The Boys will win, and allow us to rub Don “Grabmoremoney’s” nose in it for constantly babying LAFC.

      An outright win will put us on a winning streak and back to what we know this squad can be… NOT 2nd to last place!


    • Jeremy Lane says:

      This is my way of being optimistic without predicting a win against such a good team playing at home.

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    If they score 2 goals tonight they sure as shit better get through. Man I want this one bad. Come on the U!

  5. I don’t trust Leon to fill in for Jose. Sorry. I don’t hate Leon, I just don’t think he can do it.
    I’d go with Good Jesus back at DM.
    I may even switch up the front. Start Carranza / Torres then bring on Sullivan / Uhre at the 60 for fresh, game-killing legs.
    Save Perrela (spelling?) to come in for Bedoya.
    Then again, I just yell a lot from TRE and am not a coach.
    Get ’em boys…..get ’em.

  6. Chris Gibbons says:

    Flach for Martinez is a step down on defense and intimidation, but a step up on possession and opportunity.

    How many giveaways does Martinez have in a match? Several, and one or two bad ones for sure. Or, enough to see the Union out of the CCL last season (his errant pass and foul on America’s deciding goal) and MLS Cup (another errant pass that led to Acosta’s goal, if memory serves). Flach doesn’t do that specifically because Flach isn’t trying to be a hero with the ball. LA won’t respect him splitting lines, will press forward because of it, and will open space for Gazdag to work as a result.


    • Jeremy Lane says:

      I like this version of events.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Unfortunately Flach really struggles to deal with multiple runners as the base of the diamond and is often pulled out of position. I would prefer him to pair with McGlynn in a 4-2-3-1.

      • Tim Jones says:

        I wish somebody had a drone that looks like a seagull to fly over the practice fields down by the river.
        We would then know what they are preparing to try.
        A failure to score means they lose. That argument trumps all others.
        That the center whistle is an MLS ref — Drew Fisher is Canadian I believe — is favorable to both teams.

  7. PaulContinuum22 says:

    Must-win. Not must-tie. And certainly no come from ahead loss. Their season is at stake. Shit or get off the pot. The U are 17th in ESPN’s power rankings. This kind of game sets the tone for the rest of the year. Lose here, and no Supporters Shield. Maybe no playoffs. And Curtin is shown the door at season’s end.

    • Oh Stop. NINE!!! 9!!!Teams in each conference make the playoffs. The Union are certainly one of the top 9 teams in the east regardless of tonight’s result.
      Curtin won’t be shown the door either. They’ll let his contract run out, as it’s up[ at the end of the season. Perhaps he leaves on his own to work for the USMNT.

  8. Scott of Nazareth says:

    It’s funny in a sad way that they moved our home game last week to 9PM for the LA TV crowd, yet we’re still stuck with the later 10PM ET start for the game out there.

    • We all just live in LAFC’s world. Concacaf is desperate for LAFC to be in the final.

      • FCDelco dude says:

        Yup. When people realize that most professional sports are fixed they’ll stop taking it so seriously.
        LA 3
        Union 0
        Sorry. LA teams bring in more viewers. It’s that simple.

  9. I want to just puke the way EVERYONE fawns over LAFC.

    Positive energy for The Boys to beat the sh*t out of those LADBs.


    • santo bevacqua says:

      its an inferiority complex, market rules LA, NY, ATL, are bigger markets then little chester pa wanna be, that is why i root for the underdog, the U is more fun then LA anytime and cannot think of a better time to whip them solid…..tonite

  10. Mbaizo sucks. Bedoya is slow, Flach Is useless

  11. One of those games that makes me baffled Curtin is considered a top choice for national team. So slow to adjust and learn lessons. Mbazio deserved a red from second yellow in leg one, and there was nothing surprising about it happening here. Harriet for uhre understandable, but then a defender needs to come off around 75 to go for it- not jack mcglynn one of the only passing threats

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