The Philadelphia Union will be hosting the explosive Los Angeles Galaxy at Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday.
Solid starts in 2016
The two clubs enter this match in good form. The Union has been one of the surprises of Major League Soccer this season. Philly has shocked the league by picking up four victories in their first eight games. With those wins and the one draw they have earned, Philadelphia currently seats in third place in the Eastern Conference with 13 points and positive three-goal differential.
Last season the Union had only won once and tied three times in their opening eight matches. Their poor start to the season was six points and a minus four-goal differential. The rest of the 2015 campaign for Philly did not improve too much as they missed the MLS Playoffs.
The Galaxy have appeared to shake off the frustrating and disappointing ending of last season that saw them get eliminated from the playoffs in the Knockout Round against the Seattle Sounders FC.
LA is currently on a seven-game unbeaten run, where they have outscored their opponents 18 to eight. Los Angeles, at the moment, are seated in second place with 18 points and a plus 12 goal differential. A victory on Wednesday will propel the Galaxy to first place of not only one the Western Conference but of the Supporters’ Shield as well.
LA has found the cure for their road blues
The Galaxy has also been performing away from the StubHub Center this season. The five-time MLS Cup Champions have competed in four away games thus far and have only lost once. That defeat was against the current first place club in the Western Conference, the Colorado Rapids back on March 12th.
Since that game, the Galaxy have gone on to earn five points in their next three road matches. LA smashed the Houston Dynamo 4-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium on April 15th. Plus, LA has also picked up two draws against Sporting Kansas City and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Los Angeles will be looking to extend their success on the road this season at Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday.
The Galaxy dominates the brief history with the Union
Philadelphia has only been playing in MLS for six years now and they have faced the Galaxy eight times. The Union have only picked up one victory throughout that time. The odd part is that their lone win was at the then-named Home Depot Center. LA’s overall record against Philly is 6-1-1 and they have a commanding positive 13 goal differential.
Los Angeles has traveled to Pennsylvania three times since 2010 and they have yet to taste defeat. LA has won two of those matches, outscoring the Union six to two in the process.
Fatigue is the main obstacle for LA
Los Angeles is heading to Talen Energy Stadium after defeating the New England Revolution 4-2 on Sunday at home. Their star players: Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes and Jelle Van Damme went the full 90 against the Revs. LA’s head coach and general manager Bruce Arena face the challenge of getting his players recharged and ready for this midweek clash.
Since Arena took over in LA in August of 2008 his record in midweek matches is 14-9-6. The Galaxy has outscored their opponents 59 to 35, plus they have completed 14 shutouts in the process.
Los Angeles record against Eastern Conference clubs is 9-5-3 with a positive 12 goal differential. Arena has shown just in his time alone with the Galaxy that he knows what to do to get performances from his players in a short turnaround.
Now there is some good news for LA and bad for the Union. Ashley Cole will be able to play this match after serving his one-game suspension on Sunday. There is also a chance that Nigel de Jong will be able to play on Wednesday, after missing the last game due to an illness. Plus Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Mike Magee and Sebastian Lletget did not go the full 90 against the Revs.
“Physically I am fine. I probably could have played a bit longer but Bruce [Arena] obviously thinking further down the line,” Gerrard said after the 4-2 victory against New England on Sunday. “We have a game coming up in 72 hours, so I think it was sensible to just play 30 today and be available to more minutes come Wednesday.”
If the Union cannot expose the tired legs of LA then the game will go in the visitors favor.
Philadelphia looking to make a statement at home
The Union have won four games this season, but none of them have come against clubs from the West. They have faced three clubs from the other conference and their best result was a 1-1 draw at home against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 30th. Philadelphia’s other two matches were against FC Dallas and the Sounders; they were outscored four to one on the road.
However, the Union is at home and they have not lost a game yet at Talen Energy Stadium. They have won three out of the four played so far. In fact, Philly’s only home match that did not end in three points was against the Earthquakes.
A victory against the Galaxy will prove to the rest of the league that the Union are the real deal. Their four victories have come against clubs that have weak defenses.
The Columbus Crew SC, New England, Orlando City SC and New York City FC have all conceded 14 or more goals in nine or more matches. The Revs have allowed the most goals thus far in the league with 20.
Picking up three points against LA will not only be their first home win against the Galaxy, but it will also place them in first. Not to mention the Union will become only the second club to beat Los Angeles this season.
How the Union leaves with three points
Yes, C.J. Sapong and the rest of the offense must finish their chances. Jamaican international goalkeeper Andre Blake will also need to put in a solid performance against the highest scoring team in the league with 22 goals in nine matches played.
However, the most crucial area the Union need to control if they want to win or just leave with a point against LA is the midfield. The Galaxy’s midfield not only keeps possession but moves the ball at blinding pace. They can easily switch from defense to offense and then finish the play with a jaw-dropping goal.
Since U.S. World Cup veteran Maurice Edu is out with a left tibia stress fracture, the next man who will need to be the rock in the midfield is Brian Carroll. The 34-year-old veteran has to be the first man of the defense and challenge everything. He cannot allow the Galaxy players to dominate the middle of the pitch.
However, winning challenges are not enough for the Union to neutralize the Galaxy. They also need to make the most of their time on the ball and keep possession, spread the field and generate chances. If they turn over the ball then LA will easily make them pay for it.
How LA’s unbeaten streak continues
The Galaxy has to score first and early in the match. The longer this game stays scoreless the better for Philadelphia. No matter what the players for Los Angeles will get tired first, compared to Philly who had a bye week last weekend and has not played since April 30th.
If LA registers the first goal, then the Union will be forced to open up to tie the match. That is where the Galaxy will punish Philadelphia, with their lethal counter attacks. If the Galaxy take the lead there is a good chance LA will be heading back home with a comfortable road victory.
Prediction: Philadelphia 1-3 LA