The Philadelphia Union are still searching for their first win of this new MLS season.
The Ins and Outs
Los Angeles Galaxy (2-0-5) vs. Philadelphia Union (0-3-4)
When: Saturday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time – StubHub Center (Carson, CA)
Where to watch: The Comcast Network, Spectrum Sports net
Streaming: MLS Live
PRO Referees: Alan Kelly, Matthew Nelson (AR1), Felisha Mariscal (AR2), Daniel Radford (AR4).
Coaches: Curt Onalfo (LA Galaxy) – Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union)
Only way but up?:
After returning to Talen Energy Stadium in early April, many fans and media alike assumed the Union would put together some strong performances. Following two defeats, and last weekend’s dismal 3-3 draw against Montreal, that ended up not being the case. Jim Curtin’s side are the only remaining side in Major League Soccer without a victory so far this season. With only three points out of a possible 21, the Union can’t get much worse.. right?
This weekend’s match up in LA features two teams that have a combined two victories and nine points so far in 2017. Curt Onalfo has found things tough as the new head coach for the Galaxy after Bruce Arena left for the U.S. National Team. The Galaxy are coming off a 3-0 defeat at home against the Seattle Sounders. The Galaxy’s line-up features a lot of talent, but the group as a whole cannot seem to get on the right page with one another. With two struggling teams coming together this weekend, it will come down to what team wants to turn their season around the most.
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Chuck: LA and Philadelphia are two teams going through similar struggles right now. Where did it go wrong for the Galaxy?
Josh: The Galaxy shifted a bunch of their off-season focus towards youth. They wanted to promote from the Academy and fill in with younger, but talented Designated Players and TAM signings. The Front office, under General Manager Pete Vagenas, created a team that was woefully short of depth and doesn’t really stack up to the big guns in Major League Soccer – as was evident in their 3-0 loss to Seattle, a vastly more talented team. But what’s really been causing a sharp decrease in confidence, is that new Head Coach Curt Onalfo seems to be losing this team. Players have been seen yelling at him on the field, and now they’re starting to avoid his handshakes after being subbed off. It’s a dynamic that really showed itself last weekend and something that the Front Office has to be worried about.
On the field, the Galaxy have been competitive in most games, but haven’t found any sort of long term success. Their only two wins come playing against 10-man sides and no striker has scored a goal from the run of play this season. if it wasn’t for Frenchman, Romain Alessandrini, I’m not sure the Galaxy would even have as many points as they have now. The midfield pairing of João Pedro and Jermaine Jones isn’t working at all, and Giovani dos Santos has yet to do anything DP worthy. And the offseason trade of AJ DeLaGarza to Houston is still a head scratcher. Robbie Rogers is done for this year and probably forever. So the Galaxy have been forced to play Nathan Smith at right back. Smith can be good. But he’s young and he’s the target all teams are drawing on the Galaxy.
Chuck: I don’t want to say that he’s washed up but Jermaine Jones has been largely ineffective for the Galaxy this season, what’s the key to getting him going?He’s been ineffective in his pairing with Pedro, but he’s also been one of the
Josh: He’s been ineffective in his pairing with Pedro, but he’s also been one of the reasons the Galaxy actually have any offense. On defense, he’s been a liability as he’s pressing so far into the attack that he’s leaving Pedro all by himself. And maybe that’s because Dos Santos isn’t doing anything in front of him, but that could also be the reason Dos Santos isn’t doing anything – Jones is taking his space.
Onalfo described Jones as “Volatile” but in a good way. Meaning he’s certainly a guy who can get you trouble, but he’s also a guy who can make things happen. Getting him to stay connected to Pedro might be the most important thing. But if the Galaxy really want to get Jones pointed in the right direction, perhaps playing him as a Defensive Midfielder is the way to go. Go spend some DP money on a Central Attacking Midfielder and see what happens. Because right now, Jones could both be the answer and the cause of a lot of Galaxy problems.
Chuck: To you who are the players to watch for both teams and why.
Josh: For the Galaxy, you’re going to want to keep an eye on Romain Alessandrini. He’s scored 4 of the Galaxy’s 6 goals on the season and has two assists as well. His partnership with Emmanuel Boateng is something that continues to grow. Boateng is the other player to watch for LA and if he gets going he’s fun to watch. He has blinding speed and he just eases right by defenders. The other player to watch is Jelle Van Damme. Van Damme has been criticized for trying to do too much on the field. He’s a Central Defender who loves to get into the attack and push the ball forward. But he has a tendency to get caught going forward, so his positioning is always telling.
On the Union side, I love what CJ Sapong is doing. 4 goals in 7 games is a great streak and he seems like someone the Galaxy are going to game plan for. But I’ve also been a big fan of Chris Pontius wherever he plays. So in my mind, I’ll be watching his matchup against Ashley Cole and Ema Boateng.
Chuck: Match prediction and goal scorers.
Josh: This game is a battle for futility. If this were anywhere else in the world we’d be talking about a relegation battle. Philadelphia is going to want to avenge that 3-3 draw at home and the Galaxy will be trying to prove they’re not in complete shambles. But the travel is probably too much for PHL. And if the Galaxy lose this game, I could see coaching changes coming rapidly. The Galaxy have more to lose, and they’re at home. The Galaxy win 2-1 with Romain Alessandrini scoring both goals and CJ Sapong getting a late goal to momentarily pull the Union back into the game.
There are no new updates for Maurice Edu, who has yet to play for the Philadelphia Union this season. Backup keeper John McCarthy is healthy and training with the team after suffering a concussion earlier this season. Ray Gaddis is not expected to play at left-back, but Jim Curtin said Georginio Wijnaldum is ‘improving’. Defender Joshua Yaro is expected to be back in training soon, while right back Keegan Rosenberry should be back in the starting line-up on Saturday.
Keys to the game:
Be Wary of Galaxy’s Numerous options: Despite the Galaxy’s surprising slow start, they still have a lot of offensive talent at their disposal. Forwards Gyasi Zardes and Giovani Dos Santos are a deadly duo and would like to get after a struggling Union backline this weekend. Midfielder Romain Alessandrini has four goals so far this season and is a threat from long-range. U.S. international Jermaine Jones is an experienced player that brings aggressiveness to the Galaxy’s midfield.
Play for the Full 90: After the Union blew a 3-0 lead last weekend, the main message from Jim Curtin to his team will be play the match until the final whistle. A late equalizer from the Impact cost the Union a chance at three points. The Philadelphia Union do not want to be one-dimensional and attack for the full match, but they need to play smart and frustrate the Galaxy when they have possession.
Show Some Heart: I don’t think anyone saw this start from the Philadelphia Union this season, but the team needs to get going and fast. The Philadelphia Union cannot afford to head into May still searching for their first win, but if it happens I expect some changes will be coming to the coaching staff. The Union have not defeated Los Angeles since 2012, and have been on the end of some one-sided losses the past few years since. The players need to show some heart if they really want to end this miserable beginning of the season.