The best two offenses. The best two defenses. The best two goal differentials.
The best two teams. Even on points. Neither needing extra time or penalties to reach MLS Cup.
You will be entertained.
Sometimes, a final between great teams will be dull, both teams seeking control and wary of conceding it. Not this one.
LAFC knows they have a stable of wildly talented attackers and are always tuning themselves until they find a perfect pitch that, with uncanny ease, lets them walk through an opponent’s defense.
They will not be afraid of the Union’s pressure, and they will be intelligent in space defensively — taking fouls, aware of Philly’s speed, and aware of the space between their defense and goalkeeper during defensive transitions.
The Union are remarkably fearless against superstar attackers, and if Carlos Vela doesn’t track back Kai Wagner could unleash the surgical service that broke LAFC’s defense when these clubs met in the regular season.
2022 MLS Cup Watch Parties
Cheer on your Boys in Blue in the biggest match in club history as they square off against LAFC in the 2022 MLS Cup in Los Angeles at 4PM ET on November 5th by coming to one of our Union Watch Party Locations!
The key to the a match between such consistent, coherent, and confident teams is simple: Emotion.
In Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie is always remarkably himself. At one point, he’s openly described as the wild card of the group. Not wild as in: You can’t rely on this guy (though you can’t), but wild as in: how is he so Charlie, and why does it, somehow, work?
Enter Jose Martinez.
Is there a better defensive midfielder in MLS? Depends on your system. In the Union’s aggressive, breathless, vertical system, El Brujo is one of a kind. He covers for midfielders, he covers for fullbacks, he covers free zones when Leon Flach is covering everything else… he’s special. He’s also a player Jim Curtin openly admits he can’t fully control, and this is the biggest stage of his life. Will the only defensive player in the MVP discussion outside of Andre Blake stay in control during MLS Cup?
Curtin’s admission that he can’t control Martinez told the midfielder something he needs to hear: El Brujo doesn’t need to be fully controlled, and his coach isn’t trying to fully control him. If Martinez hears that message, owns his space, and adds his swagger on top — Philly owns the center of the pitch in their defensive half. With Blake, Glesnes, and Elliott, they have strong box coverage behind Martinez and can force LAFC into entry balls that lead to counterattacks and chances. Enough of these and Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre, or a resurgent Cory Burke typically put one away. And the subsequent change in game-state? That’s where Philly thrives.
If, however, Martinez is in the moment, too energized, and too emotional — the Union’s wildcard could open the game up for LAFC. An early card could leave Martinez unable to attempt the audacious, physical play that characterizes his game at its peak, and anything less than peak gives a hugely talented opponent an opportunity to pounce.
So set aside the bench full of stars the home side brings into the match. Set aside Philly’s swaggering Homegrowns. Set aside the silkiness of Carlos Vela, the hidden movement of Daniel Gazdag, the quiet dominance of LAFC and the brash power of the Union.
On Saturday afternoon, the two best teams in MLS won’t waddle around the ring: They’ll come out swinging. And nobody swings with stunning, controlled recklessness of Jose Martinez.
Get ready, Philly — it’s the best soccer team in our city’s history, in the biggest soccer match of our city’s history, unafraid to make history.
Blow the whistle. Start the clock. It’s Cup time.
The Union and LAFC face off in the 2022 MLS Cup at 4:00 p.m. ET at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday November 5, live on FOX, Univision, and TUDN.