Philadelphia Union continues their MLS campaign with a trip to LA as they face LAFC. Union is coming off a draw, away from home, against Nashville and is currently without a win in three games. Can they turn their fate around against LAFC? Here are 5 things to watch ahead of the game.
CHESTER, PA – NOVEMBER 20: Philadelphia Union defender Jakob Glesnes (5) celebrates a goal in overtime during the MLS Playoff Game between the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union on November 20, 2021 at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)
5 Things to Watch
Uhre Finally Opens the Gates
Mikael Uhre finally opened his Union goalscoring account last week, when he scored the opener in the draw with Nashville. It’s been a long time coming and I don’t really mean that in a bad way. From initial visa issues, to then a slight injury ruining his supposed debut, the stars just weren’t aligning for Uhre and the Union until they did over Nashville.
I said since the signing was originally announced that once Uhre got his first in a Union shirt the goals would start coming thick and fast. Uhre is a natural goalscorer who always gets himself into good positions to score, we’ve seen that in the few games he has played for Philly. This is just the beginning for the Danish marksman and Union fans should be excited.
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The Kids Are Alright? I Think…
One of the main talking points coming into the season for Philly was how the abundance of young, homegrown talent would feature during the season. So far, outside of the Quinn Sullivan start a few weeks back, most of the young talent has been riding the bench whilst putting in main shifts for the Union II and their MLS NEXT Pro campaign, but is it time to start giving them meaningful minutes in the MLS?
Personally, I think it’s the best time to give some of the young talent a chance in the senior team, and not just the homegrown ones either. Martinez has been a solid contributor this season but he’s coming off a couple of bad games and I’d like to see what Jesus Bueno can offer when up against the best talent US soccer has.
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In terms of Jack McGlynn, I’d love to see him replace Leon Flach in certain games and situations. Flach offers more defensively but he’s not the best going forward; whereas, McGlynn offers enough defensively but helps out going forward. I think the Union should put a plan in place like the England national team does with Kieran Trippier/Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Against the stronger sides of the league, you’d play Flach so you have a little more defensive quality to you, but against some of the weaker sides in the MLS, you play McGlynn and have a more attacking side so you can go out and really secure the three points.
In the case of Quinn Sullivan and Paxten Aaronson, it’s a little harder to justify them getting games. I could see Quinn being used as a Bedoya replacement when the captain needs a rest but with Paxten, it’s tough to go and sit Gazdag for a game when he’s been one of the best Union players this season. It’s difficult to fit both of these guys into the team when you have players who are playing great football right now.
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LAFC Will be a Tough Test
LAFC is one of the best sides in the MLS and the football they play is a joy to watch for any football fan. LAFC usually deploys a 4-1-4-1 formation where Ilie Sanchez sits in front of the back 4 and Cristian Arango leads the line as the lone striker.
In terms of the style of football they play, they are a possession-based team who look to just swarm and pressure you every second of the game. They’re currently averaging 54.4% possession a game and will look to keep control of the ball against Philly, which plays into the Union’s hands a little bit.
The issue Philly has with giving LAFC that kind of possession is the fact that LA is extremely efficient going forward and creates a lot of chances. They currently have 21 goals this season, the joint highest in the entire MLS, and are averaging 16.56 shots per 90 (2nd highest in the league), 5.67 shots on target per 90 (2nd highest in the league), and the highest goals per shot on target in the league with 0.39. LAFC will have a lot of shots and a lot of good shots, which they’ll usually convert into goals and put Philly under huge pressure over the course of 90 minutes.
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LA Stars to Watch
I know what everyone is thinking and no, I’m not picking the player you think I’m going to pick for this week’s stars to watch. Everyone already knows how great Carlos Vela is, so I’m going to talk about left-back Diego Palacios and CDM Ilie Sanchez.
Palacios has, arguably, been LAFC’s best performer over the season, if you’re not going by goals and assists stats like a lot of people do. Palacios has been a huge threat for LAFC when going forward and offers great width, alongside Opoku down that left-wing. Defensively, Palacios has also played his part and helped LAFC to only concede 8 goals over the course of the season. He has a huge influence on how LAFC plays and will be a key factor for LAFC in this game
Ilie Sanchez is the other player I wanted to highlight because of how consistent his performances have been. Sanchez is the type of player managers love to have in their team as he’ll always put in a 7-or-8-out-of-10 performance in, no matter the opponent or situation. Sanchez plays a huge part in shutting down opposition creative players and plays a huge part in turning defense into offense. Gazdag will have to perform at his best when he’s up against Sanchez in this one.
I was once again correct with some of the predictions I made last week, and if it wasn’t for Martinez giving away the penalty, I’d have been spot on with my 1-0 win with an Uhre first goal prediction. This week is a lot tougher as the game is a much tougher one for the Union. I think this game will have goals in it and so I’ll go with a 2-1 scoreline.
Either Uhre, Carranza, and then Vela will get the goals in a 2-1 win for the Union, or Vela, Arango, and Uhre will get the goals if it’s a 2-1 win for LAFC.
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Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire