Coming off of a 1-0 loss in Portland on Friday, the Union are in the middle of a three games in nine nights schedule. They’ll need to be at their best to pick up points vs. LA at home on Wednesday, and at FC Dallas on Saturday.
On the plus side, Philadelphia should be as healthy as they have been all season with Danny Califf (illness) and Keon Daniel (toe injury) back to training. In addition, midfielder Brian Carroll proved his hamstring injury had improved by playing on the turf in Portland for a full 90.
I would also think that the coaching staff had to be pleased with the Farfan twins, who had to start on Friday, with Michael as the right back and brother Gabe playing as the left back. Sheanon Williams also showed that he could handle things in the middle of the defense if called upon.
On the down side, the team continued to struggle offensively, getting very few good scoring opportunities. Hard to believe that with this talent Philadelphia is dead last in scoring, with five goals in seven games. That’s an average of 0.71 goals scored per game.
The team they’ll face on Wednesday, the LA Galaxy, are coming off of a 1-1 home draw vs. the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. They bring to PPL Park a roster that includes two designated players, as David Beckham didn't make the trip. Landon Donovan, LA’s captain, already has four goals including a header that tied the Red Bulls match. Juan Pablo Angel, the former Red Bulls striker, has found the going tough with just one goal so far, but any team that doesn’t fear him will potentially be making a huge mistake.
Defense will still be the key to Philadelphia’s hopes of beating LA. The Union have given up just three goals all season, but all three have come off of set pieces. Beckham's absence makes LA less dangerous in set piece situations, but the Union still need to figure out how to solve their one defensive weakness so far in 2011.
Other MLS observations:
The atmosphere at Portland on Friday was one of the best I’ve witnessed in MLS history. It was loud and strong the entire night. You could barely hear the referee’s whistle at press box level.
The first half of the New York at LA game was one of the most entertaining MLS games in years. Both teams were committed to the attack, and while it ended 1-1, there could easily have been another four goals scored.
MLS has to do something about these bad tackles, the latest of which sent Javier Morales to the sidelines, most likely for the rest of the season. If you’re counting, that’s Steve Zakuani, David Ferreira, and now Morales, three of the most creative attacking players in the league, all out with long-term injuries.
Staying with RSL, the emotion of the CONCACAF Champions League appears to have finally caught up with the team. They put so much into their run to the final that, win or lose, there was bound to be a letdown at some point. Never underestimate this team though, or its coach, Jason Kreis. While RSL has no equal to Morales in terms of a replacement, Kreis will figure out a way for his team to still be effective, and to remain a contender in the West. Having said that, the Galaxy (my preseason pick to win the conference) look even more like the winner of the West in light of the Morales injury.