Union Secure Point at LAFC in MLS Match of the Week

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union is the top team in the eastern conference. They went to the top team in the west, LAFC, and played to a thrilling 2-2 draw. While the result is a good one for Philly, they had the lead twice in the match but failed to hold it. Let’s take a look back at yet another instant classic involving The Union and LAFC.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

Union Secure Point

The Union now has drawn in three straight matches and hasn’t won in their last four games. This is a pattern now developing for the Union which has failed to hold leads in all four of these matches. With all that being said, Philly is still in first place in the eastern conference after 10 weeks of play.

1st half

This match was another one where the two teams showcased very different styles. LAFC wanted to possess the ball and force the Union to scramble at the back with an interchanging front three. The Union wanted to press and hit LAFC on the counterattack when they committed too many players forward. For the first 10 minutes, it looked as if LAFC would find the opening goal, then Philly’s gameplan hit.

Julian Carranza picked the ball up near midfield. He carried the ball forward beating two LAFC players and had a clear path to the 18-yard-box. He waited for the run of Kai Wagner, and then played him a perfect ball. Wagner hit a first-time ball that skirted its way all the way to the back post where Gazdag was able to tap in the chance for the opening goal. The Union was up 1-0 almost out of nowhere 10 minutes in, and Philly was able to stifle LAFC for the first 45 minutes.

2nd half

LAFC has been a second-half team all season so far, and in this match they proved they know how to produce goals to get back into the game. 10 minutes into the second half LAFC had the ball just outside the Union’s box. They were allowed to play easy one-touch passes in a triangle to dissect the Union backline. Blake was left out to dry, and Opoku tied the game at one. As the game grew later and later, the Union found some opportunities for counterattacks.

One such counter saw Wagner, second-half substitute Santos, and Gazdag all combined to get the ball near the LAFC box. Gazdag picked his head up and found Carranza in between two LAFC defenders. He threaded the ball to the striker who held off a defender and curled a perfect shot past Maxime Crepeau to give the Union a 2-1 lead with just about 20 minutes to go. All Philly had to do now was keep their defending at a high level and look to pounce when a counterattack opportunity arose.

It looked Like Philly was going to be able to ride out a 2-1 win, but a combination of missed opportunities on counter-attacks, and a not winning a crucial second ball in a late-game defending situation saw LAFC get an equalizer. Franco Escobar was able to put in a rebound after a huge Blake save off a corner kick. The match ended 2-2, with both teams stating that they were the better team in postgame interviews.

Three Takeaways

This match was another instant classic and shows why both teams are at the top of their respective conferences. The Union is in an awkward spot where they are happy to get road points but failed to get wins when they were ahead on the road. Here are three takeaways from this match as the Union continues to go through a hectic month of May.

1. Gazdag and Carranza are carrying this team

The partnership and understanding between Daniel Gazdag and Julian Carranza are on another level for Philly right now. They had both goals in this match, and are proving why they are top-tier. Gazdag has five goals and two assists, and Carranza has four goals and two assists. As they go, so to does the Union attack. They are carrying this team. Hopefully, Uhre, or another of the backup strikers can also contribute to help the team turn draws into wins.

2. The backup strikers are not what this team needs

Speaking of the backup strikers. Burke and Santos show the Union’s past struggles at the striker position. They both missed clear chances to get the win at LAFC. Burke missed a wide-open header, and Santos failed to pass to a wide-open Carranza for a tap-in. Both goals would’ve put the Union up two and would have all but secured a win. They’ll have to play a role this season, and need to show better when they get on the pitch for the Union to do well.

3. Philly has lost leads in four straight; still in first place

The Union has lost leads in four straight games. They had chances to gain 12 points in that time and only took three. Granted three of those four matches were on the road, and all four were against very good teams in this league. The Union is still in first place, and as they move through this hectic part of their 2022 schedule, draws on the road and wins at home will be enough to keep them at or near the top of the conference. However, correcting these mistakes and finishing off games could bring this team from a top-five team in the league, to one competing for a Supporters Shield.

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Doop on Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych