LAFC can’t stop scoring, but Philadelphia Union are the hardest team in MLS to break down. It will be a case of contrasting styles when Jim Curtin leads his squad west to face off with Steve Cherundolo’s high-octane attack.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this iteration of LAFC is how well they have distributed the scoring load. Carlos Vela remains a potent force and has scored four, but the other big goalscorer is Ryan Hollingshead with three goals off of four shots on target. Cristian Arango has chipped in two, but overall 12 players have already tallied.
Breaking it down further, Matt Doyle from MLSSoccer notes that eight of those 12 goals have come from set plays and eight have come from players off the bench; whether those numbers are sustainable is yet to be seen, but they point to a club that has either figured out some secrets or is running very hot right now.
For the Union, any team that steps high to press, as LAFC will, is opening spaces for a trio of dangerous attackers. Although goals have been scarce recently, Philly has been able to put its attackers in vertical, transition situations entering the final third at a gallop. They now need to pull a second wave of players forward to produce second and third chances as the opponent reorganizes.
Another target for Philadelphia will be getting Kai Wagner involved in the attack. The left back has one of the more dangerous crosses in the league and forces defenders to get tight to him, opening gaps for Jack Elliott to progress the ball.
Last time the Union went to Banc of California Park, Jakob Glesnes unleashed thunder for the first time in MLS and Jose Martinez rumbled across the pitch breaking up everything in his Union debut.
That was in 2020, when LAFC was expected to dominate the league and the Union were considered an unknown at best.
Now it’s acknowledged that this will be a heavyweight matchup and Philly showed last weekend it won’t be cowed by any opponent or any atmosphere.
Get ready for one of the best games of the early MLS slate as Philly takes its direct style of play to stylish LA.
Kickoff is set for 11:00p.m. ET on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.