The Philadelphia Union are on the up, and people are taking notice. After a 4-0 thrashing of Vancouver, the Union moved above the red line into the final playoff spot in the eastern conference. They were the biggest mover in MLS’ power rankings (now ranked 10th in the league); Borek Dockal is MLS’ player of the week, silencing his doubters. Now the Union head west to take on LAFC for the first time ever. Will Philly be able to keep up the hot steak? Our Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview looks at just that!
The Union will make their inaugural trip to Banc of California Stadium to take on red-hot LACFC Saturday night.
Just like Atlanta United FC in 2017, being an expansion team doesn’t mean much to this new west coast powerhouse. Undefeated at home, the squad led by coach and U.S.A. soccer stalwart Bob Bradley, LAFC is not resting on their laurels. During the first half of the season, they’ve continued to add more talent and don’t seem at all content with simply making the playoffs.
Rookie Uruguayan forward sensation, Diego Rossi, started 2018 with a bang and put up ridiculous numbers over the first month and a half. That’s when Mexican star Carlos Vela started heating up and has scored 7 goals and dished out 5 assists in only 12 matches. Since Diego Rossi has cooled off and has scored only once in his previous six starts, and Carlos Vela is off at the World Cup leading Mexico to the round of 16, LAFC decided to bolster its offense yet again. A month ago they added Norwegian national forward, Adama Diomande, who has a physical stature similar to Jozy Altidore, and is tough to push-off the ball. Oh yeah, he’s scored 4 goals in his first four matches. Without Vela available this weekend, expect him to get plenty of time up top with Rossi.
Needless to say, the boys in blue have their work cut out for them. Haris Medunjanin will be serving the final game of his suspension, but I have to say that might be a good thing. For the moment, Warren Creavalle is really playing the best soccer of his Union career and I’m excited to see how the same lineup that steamrolled Vancouver 4-0, will fare on the road against an even better club. The only change I’d make in the starting lineup would be switching out C.J. Sapong for Cory Burke. But we all know that won’t happen unless Sapong forgets to board the plane to Los Angeles. One thing the Union have in their favor is LAFC’s quick turnaround. They have a road game in Houston only four days later, and with one of the oldest back lines in MLS, this might cause Bradley to shuffle his lineup. I’d be ecstatic with a win and content with a draw.
Prediction LAFC: 2 Union: 2
Union man of the match: Fafa Picault
he month of June ends with one of the toughest matchups for Philadelphia Union so far this year. A cross-country trip to LAFC will mark the first game between the two clubs.
LAFC, an expansion team, has made a ton of noise so far this year. They’ve developed a distinct team culture with a large fan base. They’ve also splashed a bunch of cash to build a dominating roster. So far this season, they’ve made three in-season additions. One of those additions, Adama Diomande, netted four goals in his last three matches. Another one of those mid-season acquisitions is the talented Portuguese midfielder Andre Horta – but he won’t be going LAFC until after the summer transfer window opens next month.
Why is this relevant? Well, for an expansion team – big name acquisitions aren’t ‘supposed’ to be a thing. But Atlanta United squashed that notion last year with their impressive season. LAFC aims to do the same. And they have so far this year.
LAFC is unbeaten at home (3 W’s 3 D’s) and currently sit in third place in the Western Conference standings.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, could really use a road result this weekend. With just 21 points, they sit just above the playoff line. Jim Curtin’s squad earned just two results on the road so far this year, including an impressive draw at NYRB.
Unfortunately, that result won’t be occurring in LA this weekend. It just won’t.
Philadelphia has scored just three goals so far when playing outside of Chester. Facing an offensive machine like LAFC and considering Philly is allergic to scoring on the road, this weekend’s matchup could get ugly for the boys in blue.
The offensive brilliance on display in Chester against Vancouver was nice but LAFC is a bit better. All over the field. They’re better.
A draw would be fantastic, surprising even. A loss would unfortunately be an expectation.
Medunjanin remains suspended so that means another chance for Creavalle is on the table. He played well against Vancouver and his speed and defensive skills will be heavily needed against LAFC.
Prediction : LAFC: 3 Union 1
Union man of match : Borek Dockal
As the Union head into the end of the first half of their season, it’s clear that this side has clicked. Jim Curtin has found a good way to get the right combination of players over the past month and a half to compete in each game. In the attack, Borek Dockal has risen to his full potential. While Cj Sapong and Fafa Picault have had trouble finding the net, Cory Burke, Marcus Epps and Ilsinho have not. The attacking depth has helped the Union, while the defensive stability has as well. Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie and Keegan Rosenberry have been very impressive in front of Andre Blake. When Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin roam the middle of the field directing traffic, or shutting down opposition, this team is at it’s best. Now the Union play high-flying expansion side LAFC, will they be able to find a way to win?
As the Union head to Banc of California stadium for the first time, they will have to e ready for a lethal LAFC side. While they are without Mexican Superstar Carlos Vela due to the World Cup, LA still has a very dangerous squad. Lee Nguyen, Benny Feilhaber, Diego Rossi lead an attack, while Belgian center back Laurent Ciman captains the side! If the Union are going to hold off this side and break them down, they will need to be high press their attack, and play flawlessly in their attacking buildup.
Stopping LAFC’s attack is going to need a collective effort. Warren Creavalle and Alejandro Bedoya will need to cut out passing lanes in the middle of the field, while the wingers will need to track back to help out the outside backs. The young center backs will need to keep an eye on the attacks movement so their line doesn’t break. when the Union are on the ball they will need to rely on Dockal’s play-making ability to find the right passes to get the wingers space on the wings, or to put the striker in behind the defense.
While this is going to be a difficult match, I think the Union will be up for this one. They have started to show that they can compete this season. If they want to be taken seriously, then they will need to find a win on the road against a strong opponent. This team is poised to show that they can achieve that feat at LAFC!
Prediction: LAFC: 1 Union: 2
Union man of the match: Andre Blake
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!
Follow our writers on Twitter:
Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports