A 3-1 loss in front of a rain-soaked crowd sent Philadelphia soccer fans home with both soggy clothes and wishes for more. Philadelphia Union dropped their home contest against LA Galaxy Saturday despite a first half goal from C.J. Sapong. A 1-0 halftime lead was not enough as LA scored three in the second half.
Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin decided to roll out two changes to his normal starting XI Saturday night against LA Galaxy. Fabinho earned a start in place of Keegan Rosenberry at right back. On the offensive side of things, Marcus Epps saw his name appear in the starting XI at right-wing in place of the injured Ilsinho. Both changes were strictly rotational, not performance-based.
Early on, Fabinho provided impacts. The left-wing was very active for Philadelphia throughout the first 20 minutes of play. Fafa Picault and his speed served as an early advantage for Curtin’s squad. To grant Picault space, Fabinho helped with timely passing and aggressive overlapping runs, much like Rosenberry has done so effectively so far this season.
All eyes were on Zlatan, however. Auston Trusty, the soon-to-be 20-year-old center back, squared off against Zlatan early on for an aerial ball. Just five minutes into the match, the worldly superstar collided with the teenager from Media. A moment later, Trusty wasn’t as successful challenging Zlatan which allowed the Swedish star to release a shot which Andre Blake saved easily.
The game-plan against Zlatan involved a high line of confrontation from Philadelphia’s backline. In addition, C.J. Sapong marked Zlatan on all five of LA’s corner kick opportunities. Sapong bothered Zlatan during each corner opportunity, including a timely aerial challenge against Zlatan on Blake’s far post midway through the half.
The high line of confrontation benefited Philadelphia as well. Whenever LA decided to pass the ball backward, Mark McKenzie and Trusty would simultaneously run a few steps forward, forcing Zlatan and LA’s other forward, Ola Kamara, to continually readjust their positioning. This disrupted the timing throughout LA’s midfield too. It became clear that LA would need to excel in transition.
Philadelphia’s shining moment of the first half occurred in the 29th minute. Alejandro Bedoya and Dockal combined well along the right-wing of LA’s final third. Dockal released an attempted cross into the box. Michael Ciani sloppily cleared the cross away only partly. Dockal jumped on the loose ball and found Sapong in front of goal. Sapong neatly flicked the ball up and over an outstretched David Bingham for the goal.
The first half ended with a few chances created by LA, but none truly threatened Blake. At one point, Zlatan even displayed some visible signs of frustration. Philadelphia’s defense was causing headaches.
It only took the Galaxy three minutes to find an equalizer in the second half. After 45 minutes of stellar goalkeeper from Jamaican sensation Andre Blake, his clean sheet was sullied.
A beautiful combination play between Zlatan and Kamara left both Trusty and McKenzie looking a bit worse for wear. Kamara positioned himself slightly behind Zlatan, who sprang forward to field a pass. McKenzie displayed a brief moment of hesitation while Trusty also stood flat-footed. That brief moment was all Zlatan needed to thread a through ball between both Union defenders and onto the feet of Kamara. Kamara calmly chipped his shot over the diving Blake for LA’s first goal.
Philadelphia bounced back with resiliency. As rain continued to fill the air, so too did the tension levels on the pitch. Players increased their tempo and drives toward goal. Fans became more vocal.
Curtin decided fresh legs were needed and made a change during the 60th minute, as he routinely does. Marcus Epps, having done well along both wings for Philadelphia, was replaced by David Accam.
However, Philadelphia’s midfield trio seemed to be plagued by heavy legs. Just one minute after Accam was subbed on, Philadelphia overloaded the right-wing in hopes of creating an offensive chance. The result was a turnover which LA jumped on. Quick transition play created a shot from LA just outside the box. The shot slid wide.
The following Galaxy shot attempt found the back of the net. Zlatan further cemented his impact on the match with a goal of his own. A breakdown along Philadelphia’s right side allowed Romain Alessandrini to gain entry into the box. Zlatan took a step into space, received a pass just inside the box, and fired right-footed blast past Blake.
The rain increased. And so did the chances of LA leaving Philly with three points.
However, Philadelphia did manage to generate chances to find a late goal. After forcing a turnover in the 74th minute, Medunjanin lofted a ball forward for Accam. Accam settled the ball, entered the box, and sent a pass to Burke who had space for a shot. But Burke sent his left-footed shot way off target.
Philadelphia struggled to muster consistent threatening chances. LA remained poised defensively and sought to exploit the increased offensive activity from Philadelphia. LA created a corner kick opportunity following seamless transition play in the 82nd minute. Alessandrini sent a curling ball into the box which Ciani headed away for LA’s third goal.
Ciani was virtually unmarked on the goal, leaving many wondering how such a lack of focus occurs in a vitally important moment.
– Andre Blake: Philadelphia Union fans can’t ask anymore of the Jamaican goalkeeper. Blake stood tall throughout the first half of play, denying four chances. The second half created three LA goals, but really only one of which Blake should’ve handled better. That one chance was rifled at him by Zlatan though, so Blake catches a break.
– C.J. Sapong: Sapong finally scored. A 11-match scoring drought is over. But Philadelphia’s lack of scoring continues to haunt them. Three goals could’ve easily been the result tonight for Philadelphia. Timely and clinical finishing remains a haunting task for Curtin’s squad.
– Haris Medunjanin: Medunjanin has failed to put together a consistent performance for some time now. A reoccurring theme of sorts seems to be Medunjanin’s reactions when things turn sour. Whether the Bosnian forces an errant pass, a teammate makes the wrong run, or a referee whistles a soft foul – Medunjanin reacts negatively. Maybe I’m focusing on body language a bit too much, but it seems his frustrations are causing hiccups.
PHILADELPHIA UNION STARTING XI:
Andre Blake, Fabinho, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Ray Gaddis, Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin (85’ Warren Creavalle) , Borek Dockal, Fafa Picault, Marcus Epps (60’ David Accam), C.J. Sapong (68’ Cory Burke)
Substitutes: John McCarthy, Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliot, Fabian Herbers
LA GALAXY STARTING XI:
David Bingham, Tomas Hilliard-Arce (45’ Romain Alessandrini), Michael Cianim Jorgen Skjelvik, Dave Romney, Chris Pontius (79’ Sheanon Williams), Jonathan Dos Santos, Servando Carrasco, Giovanni Dos Santos (90’ Emmanuel Boateng), Ola Kamara, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Substitutes: Justin Vom Steeg, Daniel Steres, Baggio Husidic, Ariel Lassiter
GOALS / ASSISTS
29’ PHI – C.J. Sapong (Borek Dockal)
48’ LAG – Ola Kamara (Zlatan Ibrahimovic)
63’ LAG – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Romain Alessandrini)
82’ LAG – Michael Ciani (Romain Alessandrini)
YELLOW / RED CARDS
31’ PHI – Fafa Picault (Dissent)
64’ LAG – Michael Ciani (Unsporting Behavior)
79’ PHI – Haris Medunjanin (Unsporting Behavior)
85’ LAG – Romain Alessandrini (Unsporting Behavior)
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports