Wednesday night is quietly becoming a great night for MLS. Over the past few weeks the league has put some very good matches on with some compelling story lines. This week is no different, as tonight we will see two teams with drastically different styles face off as they try to continue their climbs up the table. This game has all the excitement of the past weekend’s matches, plus a European star, a few players making questionably high salaries, and a struggling offense on the road trying to break down a stubborn defense. I of course speak of the FC Dallas/Toronto FC match.
However, I doubt that this is the match most soccer fans are excited to watch. The Philadelphia-Los Angeles clash tonight at 7:30 PM ET on DirectKick features top two teams from each conference. Philadelphia is coming off a tough loss to Portland, where their defense held the Timbers at JELD-WEN until a second half goal did them in. Regardless, they are playing the best defense in the league, only allowing three goals in seven matches, and doing just enough to have secured second place in the East.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, are coming off their emotional game against New York, which ended in a 1-1 draw. The days after the match have seen various snips in the media from Galaxy players (see Daniel’s take on our site) about uncalled fouls against them. Regardless of what’s called or not, Los Angeles is ahead of RSL for first in the Western Conference and at 16 points is your early leader for the Supporters’ Shield.
Their last meeting is a good guide to tonight’s match. On April 2nd, a Leonardo header off a Beckham free kick in the 33rd minute was the difference as the Galaxy won 1-0. Overall the Galaxy have never lost to the Union, having outscored them 5-1 in the three times they’ve met. The lineups will likely be similar for both teams except last game’s goal scorer is out with “a knee” for the visitors [and Beckham will miss the game due to Bruce Arena giving him the game off]. And if you are looking for more subplots, Carlos Ruiz will face his former team for the first time with the Union; he played for the Galaxy from 2002-2005 and again in 2008.
This game will be low scoring, take that to the bank. Here are some keys for who will likely come out ahead with that critical one goal:
- Both teams are coming off of emotional games on national television, so the team that is more focused will certainly have an edge.
- Philadelphia has to be careful with fouls and try not to give up corner kicks or free kicks on their half of the field. Everyone knows the beauty of Beckham’s service, but set plays have been the best scoring option for the Galaxy recently. Landon Donovan has scored the last four goals for the visitors over three games, and the most recent one was off a Beckham corner. Los Angeles is struggling to score in open play, so allowing them set pieces is playing into their offense.
- The Portland strategy will not work for the Union this week, even though they almost escaped with a point last weekend. Peter Nowak The Union staff [note: Peter Nowak will miss tonight's game] needs to find ways to get the ball to Carlos Ruiz in the offensive half. This team cannot simply absorb the Galaxy’s pressure, LA is too good to not find a way to score. And you can bet Andrew Chapin has heard the complaints in the media and will award penalties on close plays.
- The key to this game will be Brian Carroll. The midfielder has a tough task to disrupt the Galaxy midfield, the strength of their attack. Playing in the middle, he has to prevent Juninho from finding space to shoot from outside the box as well as disrupt any long balls from Beckham to Donovan, Magee, and the forwards. If Philadelphia can clog the middle successfully and grab a goal, they’ll win.