Philadelphia Union Stunned by LA Galaxy Onslaught.

In what was their only meeting of the season, the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Philadelphia Union 5 – 1 to earn their sixth win of the season.

Photo Credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz

The Philadelphia Union (4-10-3) made their first and only trip of the season out west to Carson, California to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy (6-5-7) last night. Los Angeles has proved to be dominant against Philadelphia with LA winning five of the previous seven meetings between the teams. Last night proved to be no different. With a thin roster for the Union due to injuries, Philadelphia Union were certainly shorthanded offensively. The Union started in typical fashion, save for Zach Pfeffer in for an injured Sebastian Le Toux and Sheanon Williams in for Fabinho.

The Starting Line-Up… before they fell apart…

The opening minutes of the game saw Philadelphia holding their own against the five-time championship side. Although Philly was gifted with four corner kicks in the first fifteen minutes of the game, they failed to convert any of them while the Philadelphia defense did a solid job disrupting the attack from the Galaxy. In the 23rd minute, Baggio Husidic scored the rebound goal off of a post hit by Gyasi Zardes which completely changed the dynamics of the game. Los Angeles began to settle in and Juninho added a second to the tally in the 35th minute, and the Union went into the locker room at halftime down two goals.

Juninho Goal Celebration for the Ages. Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz
Juninho Goal Celebration for the Ages. Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz

Los Angeles continued their dominance going into the second half with a textbook counterattack featuring a world-class cross from Robbie Keane leading to a brilliant finish by Zardes. Down 3-0, Philadelphia delivered a great turn-and-shoot goal by C.J. Sapong, but the championship side LA responded in similar fashion (within seconds) with a goal by Stefan Ishizaki in the 59th minute.

Unfortunately for the Union, when it rains, it pours. Recently signed attacking midfielder Sebastian Lletget buried the fifth goal of the night for the Galaxy, leaving the Union defense nowhere in sight. This game left an all too similar taste in Philadelphia’s mouth as their last trip to the Stub Hub had an almost identical result (LA 4 – 1 PHI, May 25th 2014).

Last night, the Philadelphia Union were simply outplayed by a better opponent. From almost every angle of the game, Los Angeles dominated against a poor Union squad. Even after such a statement win, Galaxy head Coach Bruce Arena was still was not satisfied: We can play better than we did tonight.

Interesting take from Bruce Arena on last night’s performance from LA Galaxy: tempering reality with potential, and dampening everyone’s glow over the return of flashes of the Championship Winning title holders.

I think the score does not indicate the game correctly. I don’t think we were as dominant as the score would indicate. We were pretty sloppy in the game, but having said that, we finished some great goals. At times we played well, at other times we didn’t play so well. So it was far from a complete victory tonight, and we have a way to go.” – Bruce Arena, Head Coach LA Galaxy

Bruce’s assessment is what makes him such an incredible coach. Swallowing wins and losses in stride and putting them in larger context of the season and the team history forces them to become better and better. The Galaxy came on the pitch in much better health and with a more idealistic lineup than the lower-ranked Union, so a lopsided win wasn’t unexpected. I won’t go as far as to say they have a deep bench now, but they almost do, especially when compared to the Union, who had a single bonafide striker last night. It was an easy victory, a much-needed one at that, and a signal to fans and media that they’re serious about keeping in line with a historical upswing in the latter half of the season. There’s nothing revolutionary, creative or remarkable about it. The Keane and Zardes connection shows a maturation of their on-field relationship and with practice (with both the Galaxy and the USMNT), Gyasi’s confidence and accuracy grows. He had Philadelphia’s defense running in circles.

But overall, LA Galaxy of last night is what we’ve come to expect and therein lies the reason for Arena’s “But we can play better than we did today” comments. Point taken but I, for one, am thrilled to see what he does with his ever-increasing quality in the midfield (Gerrard!) and the final third which is now stacked with a youthful presence.

With possession being about equal between the two teams last night, Sebastian Lleget put it best: “Even though we finished in front of goal, I think we can keep possession a little better. But we’re working on it and we’re aware of it.” The new LA Galaxy is emerging and we’ve only caught a glimpse of the potential.

We're back! Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz
We’re back! Photo credit: Robert Mora and Jon Lorentz

On the other hand, the Union’s collapse was a definite warning bell however and rightly signal alarm bells across the board. It was an unlucky day to be a Philadelphian. It was an unlucky day to be a Union supporter. It was a far worse day to be a player for the Union. After a 15-minute promising start with 4 corner kicks that yielded nothing fruitful but a close Edu header, Philadelphia were caught ball-chasing, leaving Galaxy players unmarked and sometimes (i.e. – LLetget) obviously dangerously open, outsmarted and outplayed by magnitudes. Marquez, Sheanon Williams, Ray Gaddis, Edu (sigh) were out-of-position and underperforming at every turn for much of the evening – we’ve seen much better from most of them, in past years, even against a dominant LA. There are no excuses to be made. Perhaps they held way back in anticipation of Wednesday’s match against Seattle Sounders? The mentality of “And then we’re just crawling in quicksand” is something that has to be overcome because comebacks are a regular enough occurrence in the game that it’s not insurmountable physically.

“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves, we have to pick our heads up and get back to work and try and get a result against Seattle on Wednesday.” – Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin.

Philadelphia will head back to the east coast with a long home stretch coming up beginning with a short-handed Seattle Sounders this Wednesday and Canadian neighbors Montreal Impact on Saturday. Hopefully the Union will do some soul searching on their long flight back to Philadelphia and come ready to compete against Seattle.

The Galaxy are home Wednesday against a menacing Portland and play next Saturday at San Jose in a California Clasico rivalry match, followed closely by U.S. Open Cup action against their rivals to the north on Wednesday, July 1st.

** this article was written by Adriana Lacy and Chandrima Chatterjee

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