With high winds and rain throughout the entire match Philadelphia Union and LAFC ended their third showdown of 2023 in a 0-0 draw at Subaru Park on Saturday night.
Saturday’s match between Philly and LAFC was match 43 of 2023 for both sides, with the starting lineups assembled by both head coaches showing how busy their respective seasons have been. When the lineups were announced an hour before kickoff, it was revealed Jakob Glesnes’ remarkable ironman streak of 101 games would end since the Norwegian centerback was missing from the matchday roster. Head Coach Jim Curtin alluded to the possibility of his absence in his Friday press conference, citing a developing groin injury. The defender wasn’t the only regular starter out of action with Jose Martinez not taking part in the festivities. LAFC was also missing some key starters with Carlos Vela, Denis Bouanga and Ilie Sanchez not in the first 11 but available as substitutes.
Battling winds over 30mph from tropical storm Ophelia making its way up the east coast, the Union had the gusts offensively to their back to start the match. The physicality was set inside the first 90 seconds with Aaron Long shown a yellow card for a headed challenge on Julian Carranza. Play resumed with a prime early chance for the Boys in Blue via a Kai Wagner free kick, but the wind carried it over the net and into the River End.
Both sides were eager to establish their preferred styles early in the contest with the Union seeking direct passes over the top while LAFC sought to take advantage of second balls to jumpstart an attack. Philly’s aggressive defense produced a scoring opportunity when Damion Lowe pushed up the field and won an aerial duel that had the Boys in Blue knocking on the visitor’s 18. Pushing the ball to Carranza outside the box, the forward tried to thread a pass to Daniel Gazdag but his effort resulted in a deflected ball inside the box. Drifting toward the goal line, captain Alejandro Bedoya tracked it perfectly to head it back across Maxime Crepeau in net but ultimately it was properly cleared away.
The visitors nearly snuck in the opening goal in the 21st minute with a corner kick effort from Kellyn Acosta. The midfielder rifled a hard cross just above the ground and snuck it through the entire box without a single touch somehow. LAFC recollected possession and tried to generate a shot but the Union defense held strong.
Building off the momentum, the Union turned to creative passes to set up half chances with Jack McGlynn sneaking through but not on the same connection with Gazdag and forced a diving block in front of goal to prevent a shot.
The chess match continued throughout the first half with LAFC keeping the passing lanes extremely tight. It proved a sound plan as it prevented any attacking chances set up via Carranza and Gazdag as they dropped into the midfield. In the 40th minute, Gazdag was able to find a lane, ripping a hard pass nearly to the penalty spot for Mikael Uhre but the forward couldn’t keep down the volley shot.
First half stoppage saw the Union push forward one last time with a centering pass to Carranza. The Argentine forward tried to sneak a long-range shot but saw it blocked by Acosta then fall right back to him for a second look. Seeing Harriel and Bedoya streaking up the right side, Carranza hit a perfect ball to the homegrown right back. Harriel nailed a hard cross with his right for the near post, but Crepeau didn’t take any chances and punched it clear in the difficult conditions.
Both teams turned to new forwards to kick off the second 45’ with Tai Baribo taking to the pitch in place of Carranza. With zero shots attempted in the first half, LAFC turned to its Golden Boot candidate Bouanga. The move quickly saw production for the Union with Uhre and Baribo nearly combining for a scoring chance but a last-ditch tackle prevented a chance.
The 50th minute saw the Union sending the ball into the back of the net when a long pass out wide to Kai Wagner on the left side presented a cross opportunity. The German left back used the wind to his advantage with curler that connected with Uhre at the edge of the box where the Dane flicked it to Baribo. The Israeli international turned and fired a shot right off the crossbar but the rebound fell right to Gazdag for the second-chance header that had Subaru Park celebrating. The roar turned to boos 30 seconds later with the referee summoned by the VAR for a second look and taking the goal off the scoreboard with the determination that Uhre was offside in the build up.
With momentum on their side, the Union continued to push numbers into the box with a quick passing combination nearly setting up another shot from Baribo. Bouncing through the box, Harriel raced into possession and teed up a one-time blast but saw it high.
LAFC launched a counterattack in the 62nd minute with hopes of getting their first shot with a long ball into the box intended for Bouanga. Jack Elliott met the forward step for step and shielded off the 14-goal forward for Andre Blake to race off his line and collect.
With just two wins in their last 14 road matches, LAFC opted to push for the win with a pair of changes in the 71st minute as Sanchez and Vela took to the pitch. With rain and wind swirling throughout Subaru Park, the Union defense was pinned in its defensive third after the change. A corner in the 73’, the Union held the visitors at bay. A second build up with a possible first go on target was turned aside from Harriel on Mateusz Bogusz. LAFC kept up the pressure but the Union didn’t break as they threw their California rival’s attack right back at them.
Head Coach Jim Curtin swapped homegrown midfielders with just over 10 minutes remaining as midweek spark Quinn Sullivan came on for McGlynn. Seconds later it was another change as Chris Donovan entered for Uhre.
Philly had the last chance of the match in the 89th minute with a strong buildup in possession as Harriel shot an inside pass to the boots of Baribo. The forward battled and tried to turn for a long-range effort but saw a crunching tackle from behind put to an end a potential game-winner.
The Boys in Blue continue their hectic schedule with another midweek showdown as they welcome FC Dallas to Subaru Park for Retro Night. Kick off is set for 7:30PM ET with the match broadcast on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.