One of the most heart-pounding home wins in recent memory took place last Saturday. The Union trailed FC Dallas 1-0 in the 85th minute and then Cory Burke was fouled just outside Jimmy Maurer’s net. Marco Fabián was stopped on another penalty but Burke was there to tap in the rebound. Two minutes into extra time, Ilshino chipped a beautiful ball to Union captain, Alejandro Bedoya ,who put the moves on two Dallas defenders and sent a left-footed shot past Maurer for the game winner. The roof came off Talen Energy Stadium and the boys in blue secured their third straight victory.
This weekend, the opponent standing in the way of the Union tying the longest winning streak in club history (4 matches in 2017), is the L.A. Galaxy. The five-time MLS Cup Champions are no longer the offensive juggernaut fans are used to seeing. Coming off his first year in MLS totaling 22 goals and 10 assists, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is of course the focal point and already leads the club in 2019 with 4 goals. The Swedish international has amassed over 500 goals between playing for his native Sweden as well as some of the most high-profile clubs in the world. These include Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United. His résumé is on par with any other player in the world.
There isn’t much firepower aside from Ibrahimovic, except for Frenchman midfielder, Romain Allesandrani. He has yet to register a goal or assist this season but has the potential to be a factor. During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Allesandrani tallied 24 goals and 21 assists. Sebastian Lletget is very steady on the ball in the midfield, but doesn’t offer much offensively. Although Giovani dos Santos (who the Galaxy bought out prior to the 2019 season) was injured off and on the past few years, he was the most talented offensive threat until Ibrahimovic arrived. Also, the transfer of Ola Kamara just before the start of the season, who scored 14 goals in 2018, to the Chinese Super League, has left a gaping hole. The most telling stat concerning their lack of offensive prowess – the Galaxy are currently tied for second worst in MLS with only 18 shots on goal this season. In contrast, the Union have the 2nd most with 28.
Now that dos Santos and Kamara gone, the Galaxy are forced to play more of a defensive style. Outside backs Jorgen Skjelvik and Rolf Feltscher are the strengths of the Galaxy defense. Skjelvik had an impressive first season in MLS in 2018 after winning three titles with Rosenborg BK in Norway’s first division. Feltscher faced some of the best competition in the world in La Liga and the Bundesliga before joining the Galaxy last season. After missing more than half of last season due to injury, Los Angeles is counting on him to help stabilize the defense in 2019. Perry Kitchen, who is still out with an ankle injury, would normally be in the starting lineup to anchor the midfield.
It’s going to sound a lot like last week going into FC Dallas, but Jim Curtin should not change anything. Same starters with Jamiro Monteiro, Ilsnho and Cory Burke again on the bench. The match-up I’m looking forward to most will be watching Kai Wagner tussle with Romain Allesandrani. Wagner has been outstanding so far and as talented as Allesandrini is, he can get easily rattled and has a tendency to let defenders and officials get under his skin. Wagner isn’t much of a talker but his tenacity could frustrate the Galaxy winger. Ibrahimovic will get his but the Union will get their fourth win in a row. And look for David Accam to get back in the scoring column.
Union: 3 Galaxy: 2
Union Man of the Match: Marco Fabián
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