Photo courtesy of @imadshoots, Graphics edited by @LAFCCentral
The Black and Gold of Los Angeles travel to the “City of Brotherly Love” this Saturday as they take on the beasts of the East, the Philadelphia Union. With the result of a midweek fixture between Houston Dynamo and Minnesota United, former LAFC player Christian Ramirez helped his Ex-club win the Western Conference Title by beating his former club, Minnesota United 2-0. LAFC (19-6-4, 1st in West) has now earned a first round bye in the playoffs and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, and have their eyes set and will continue to fight for the prestigious Supporter’s Shield with five matches remaining in the regular season.
Philadelphia (15-6-8, 2nd in East) shocked the entire league a few weeks ago by pulling off a 3-1 upset win against the Defending Champions, Atlanta United. After the match, goal contributor, Kacper Przybyłko, called out the league leaders, Saying “LAFC, we wish you a lot of luck. This is our house, our stadium, we have great supporters, and we are waiting for you guys.” Since Przybylko’s comments were made, this match has been highly anticipated, leaving MLS fans impatiently waiting for September 14.
With an injured Carlos Vela and a handful of international departees during the International Break, the Black and Gold haven’t been in their usual winning form as of late, but LAFC fans received some great news earlier this week. After playing with a minimized squad for the past two games, Coach Bob Bradley announces that all players have returned from international duty, marking key players like Walker Zimmerman, Mark Anthony-Kaye, newcomers Brian Rodriguez, Diego Palacios and more available for selection. According to LAFC Staff Writer, Vince La Rosa (@LAFCVince), Captain Carlos Vela is in Philadelphia training with the first team, stating “He rejoined the group in training on tuesday, but his status for the match on Saturday is still up in the air.” Since Vela is questionable, it does not mean he will not play. La Rosa explains,”his inclusion with the group in training points toward the likelihood he takes part against the Union.” (via Vince La Rosa/MLSsoccer.com) As of right now, I can conclude that Carlos Vela is not in, but he’s also not out.
The excitement for this match has been building up for a few weeks now. Here’s a few keys that can help LAFC secure the three points against the Union on Saturday:
Communication/Defensive Assignments - Center back duo, Eddie Segura and Walker Zimmerman, have given up some goals that could have been easily prevented in their past few matches. These errors came from a lack of communication between the two and their wingbacks. LAFC’s attack does not have a problem doing their job, all they need is for the defense to do theirs. As the leader of the backline, Zimmerman must give proper assignments to his teammates and read the opposing attackers before they execute their play. If the defense can be 2-4 steps ahead of the offense, I don’t see why not they can’t get the clean sheet, let alone the win.
Take advantage of your assets - With only 70 minutes played for the team, Brian Rodriguez has exploited his skills with the ball, while making some great runs without it. From Brian Rodriguez in the attack to Lee Nguyen in the middle to Mohamed El-Munir in the back, Bob Bradley must take advantage of the players he has on the bench, as they can be the deciders of the match.
Keep Composure/Play your tempo - Composure has not been a relevant word in LAFC’s vocabulary during big matches like these. Most notably referring to their matches against Galaxy, LAFC have entered these games a bit over-confident. If they want to win this game, no matter how much they are winning or losing by, they must think of the score 0-0 at all times and stick to their playing style.
Will LAFC grab the win and get an inch closer to the Supporter’s Shield? Or will Philadelphia force them to a pit stop and spark a late run for the shield themselves? Let us know in the comments and make sure to catch the match at 4:30 PM this Saturday on ESPN+!