Philadelphia will have to be at their finest because LA doesn’t give up much in terms of scoring chances. To date, while everyone talks about Edson Buddle and his league leading 7 goals, it’s LA’s defense that is keeping them unbeaten at 4-0-1. Donovan Ricketts is one of the league’s best goalkeepers as his 0.20 goals against average proves. He has allowed just one goal this season with 4 shutouts, including last week’s 0-0 stalemate at Kansas City.
Ricketts has had a lot of help though when you factor in that as a team, LA has allowed just 12 total shots on goal...in five games. Simple math tells you that the overall team defense is solid, as they are allowing teams an average of just over 2 shots on goal per game.
At the opposite end is Philadelphia’s defense, which has allowed not just an average of 2 goals per game, but exactly 2 goals in each of the club's four games.
Can’t put it all on the goalkeeper. In two of those four Philly MLS games, the team has played more than a half with 10 men. They have also conceded two penalty kicks. Chris Seitz has only been given the lead in one of four games, and that was the 3-2 win vs DC.
So, how can you beat LA, or even get a draw on the road? First things first...eliminate the costly mistakes that are resulting in goals. The dangerous players must be marked closer, and not just when they are in scoring positions. Look at how some of the goals have been scored against Philadelphia. Who is putting pressure on the ball? You can’t allow a free cross from the flanks.
While Edson Buddle is the hottest scorer in MLS, the player you have to shut down is Landon Donovan. Lost in the shuffle of Buddle’s success is Donovan’s league high 4 assists and the amount of space Buddle gets because Donovan is on the field. Shut down Donovan (much easier said than done), and you can get one big step closer to shutting down Buddle.
On offense, who replaces Le Toux? Too early for Manager Peter Nowak to tip his hand. Danny Mwanga or Jack McInerney would be two good guesses, if Nowak sticks with a 4-4-2. Another option would be to go with a lone striker.
Regardless of the lineup, probably no single player replaces what Le Toux has brought to the lineup. That means collectively, veteran players like Fred and Alejandro Moreno might have to do even more to get a result.
The road for the Philadelphia Union doesn’t get any easier as they travel to LA to face the league’s best team at the moment, minus top goal scorer Sebastien Le Toux who injured his left knee in Tuesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup loss vs New York.
Tune into the game on Saturday at 10:30pm ET on 6abc's Live Well HD Network. See you then and enjoy the match.