Culver City Observer -

By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

LA Football Club Faces Philly Union Saturday

Hopes to End Dry Spell With Win

 

September 12, 2019

George Laase

Adrien Perez, left, scored his first goal for the LAFC in their 2-2 tie against Orlando on the road. Without their leading scorer, Carlos Vela, the LAFC are winless in their last three games. They travel to Philadelphia on Saturday.

Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) hopes the dog days of summer 2019 are coming to an end as they prepare to take on Philadelphia Union this Saturday, Sept. 14, in their first-ever visit to Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. Without the services of de facto league MVP Carlos Vela for the past two matches, LAFC has not won since beating the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 17.

LAFC, with 63 total points, has five matches remaining on its regular season schedule to win the Supporters' Shield for the league's best record. They need nine points to set the league record for total points in a season, set last year by the New York Red Bulls with 71 points. Philadelphia Union, like LAFC, have clinched a spot in this year's MLS playoffs beginning in mid-October.

The Union, currently in second place, are in a battle for the Eastern Conference title with first place New York City FC and third place Atlanta United FC, the defending MLS Cup Champions. The Union have shown very good form lately, winning four of their last six matches including the last two. They convincingly beat Atlanta 3-1 in their last match at home.

This week, the Black and Gold remained on the East Coast rather than travel back to Los Angeles after they had to rally for a 2-2 draw at Orlando City SC last Saturday. LAFC head coach Bob Bradley thought the layover was a good opportunity to bond on the road.

"There's not too many times in the whole year where we're together for a week or so," said Bradley. "In terms of having some good time to focus on ourselves for this final push, it comes at a really good time. We know that Philadelphia has played really well this year and it's a big game. And we'll have the whole week to get ready."

Philadelphia is led by forward Kacper Przybylko, who scored the go-ahead goal against Atlanta. Przybylko's current form is spot on with four goals in August and he leads the team with 13 total goals. The team's 54 total goals for the season are second only to LAFC's 76 goals. The match against the Union is not a must-win for LAFC but after having dismantled the league for most of the season, a win would help reestablish their confidence.

Without Vela, the 2-2 draw at Orlando showed why he is the league's most valuable player this season. After first-time starter Adrian Perez gave LAFC a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute, Orlando City forward Nani tied it up one minute later on a defensive lapse. Seven minutes later Benji Michel put OCSC up 2-1 despite LAFC completely controlling the ball and tempo.

"I thought we started the game well and after going up, a little bit unlucky but still I'm disappointed with giving up a goal right off the kickoff," Bradley said. "Latif (Blessing) went over, clipped his heel. Tristan (Blackmon) got caught, but that's obviously a killer. Also, I don't think we defended well on the second goal."

Perez scored with a left-footed shot from the middle of the box, giving LAFC the emotional lift they were looking for early in the match. Yet, Nani and Michel's subsequent scoring placed the doubt right back into LAFC. Just like the previous 2-0 loss at home to Minnesota United FC, their finishing touches were lacking in the Final Third of the pitch.

"It's a special moment for sure always getting your first goal," Perez said. "It wasn't the result we wanted but it's a dream of mine and I can't wait to make the most out of it."

Perez also appeared to score his second goal of the match early in the second half but was ruled offside on a tight decision.

"He's (Perez) been really close to scoring goals in some moments when he's come on as a reserve," Bradley added. "But to see him get his first goal was awesome and I know he'll continue to work because he's got the right mentality."

George Laase

LAFC's Brian Rodriguez, left, has the unenviable task of filling in for Carlos Vela as he heals from a hamstring injury.

It was LAFC forwards Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande that got the equalizer in the 78th minute. A beautifully executed give-and-go with Dio left Rossi open with the ball inside the box. He dribbled short left and sliced a goal past Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe. It was Rossi's 15th goal of the season, fourth in the league behind Vela (27), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (23) and Josef Martinez (32).

Bradley's starting lineup was compromised from multiple players being out due to international duties. "Obviously when we're down some guys we had to rearrange. So we used Diego for the first 55 minutes or so more underneath Dio in a little bit of a 10 role. That's not something that we've done this year so it's a little bit of a new challenge," said Bradley.

"He can do it, but then technically we changed and when we brought up Danilo Silva on we pushed Eddie Segura into a deeper role so that Lee (Nguyen) and Latif could move up higher and Diego could start to play more as a wide attacker again. So, I thought that helped him and I thought the combination that led to the equalizer was quite good."

 

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