Editorial (April 27, 2017) – The LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union are both on a downward spiral in 2017. They are two of the worst teams in points per game this year. Philly hasn’t won a game this season. The Galaxy have lost three home games to conference opponents already. The Union are frustrated. The Galaxy could be toying with firing Head Coach Curt Onalfo.
So what should fans look for when these two meet in the Land of the Blind on Saturday night?
Philadelphia Union At LA Galaxy: A Desperate Must Win Game For Both Sides
First off, let’s check the injury reports. We know about most of the players who will be unavailable. Robbie Rogers was just put on the Season Ending Injury list by the Galaxy. Sebastian Lletget is also out after foot surgery. Clement Diop is questionable with a hip injury. He sat out last Sunday’s match. Brian Rowe will start if he’s unavailable.
The Union don’t have many surprises either. Joshua Yaro has been out due to shoulder surgery since pre-season. The ever injured Maurice Edu is out. Warren Creavalle also has a right calf contusion.
The Galaxy’s Right Defensive Flank
The Galaxy’s right flank has been their Achilles Heel in 2017. Right back Nathan Smith has had some good moments, but he struggled against Orlando City SC and Seattle. He plays next to Daniel Steres who is in just his second year in MLS.
In front of them is Joao Pedro, who hasn’t adjusted well to MLS. In front of Smith, is Romain Alessandrini. Alessandrini has been lighting it up on offense. With that, he hasn’t take up much defensive responsibilities. Add that up, and you get one way traffic with Smith just trying to tread water.
This should be a point of emphasis for the Galaxy in training this week. It could be key for Union Head Coach Jim Curtin as well. Perhaps Rafael Garcia replaces Smith in the lineup. Onalfo could change up the roles in the midfield from Jermaine Jones, to Pedro, to Alessandrini.
The Union’s attach hasn’t come from their left (the opponent’s right) flank much. Ilsinho and Fabinho have yet to record a goal or assist this year. They have a combined seven key passes in 956 minutes played. This could be their opportunity to get off the snide. We could see Chris Pontius switch sides as well to create offense.
Union Second Half Fade:
The Union are 0-4-1 in the last five games. Of the 12 goals they have given up in that stretch, half of them have come after the 60th minute. They’ve also blown leads in the last two games. When Earnie Stewart came in last year, he turned fitness into a big deal. Whether it’s personnel, coasting with a lead, or something else, the Union have been vulnerable.
LA will be at home on Saturday. The Union will have to travel across country. This game is ripe for the Galaxy to close out the game or come back if they are down late in the match. Given the way Philly failed to close out last weekend, this has to be the first point of emphasis for Curtin and company.
Designated Players Need To Step Up:
Alejandro Bedoya was crushed after the 3-3 draw (he called it a loss). The DP American International could have done more last weekend, especially in preventing the Impact’s first goal. The Union haven’t been able to close a game out this year, and Bedoya’s leadership (sometimes lack there of) has been a part of that.
On the other side, Giovani dos Santos has been in Ghost Mode in 2017. He has just one goal (on a PK) and no assists. He could still be playing with an injury. Regardless, he needs to step up. The front office used this off-season to build around him. He needs to be one of the best players on the field for LA to turn this game around.
Two Coaches On The Hot Seat:
Both fan bases have had clusters calling for sweeping changes. But I’m not sure doing so would be the right decision for either team. Every off-season signing for the Union has been a disappointment. Other than C.J. Sapong, every offensive player has regressed from last year. This is a front office issue. Stewart came to the club with the mindset that it was a long term project and he was going to work with Curtin to make that happen. This season hasn’t been his fault and it’s not like Philly wants to win this year more than build for the future.
The Galaxy have a similar problem. The club went through a huge change this December when Bruce Arena left for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Onalfo was labeled as the guy to lead the Galaxy’s youth movement. The front office could abandon all of that in firing Onalfo to try and save this season. Much like Philly, their struggles are in part due to off-season signings not working out.
Both coaches are on the hot seat for recent events. But they were both brought in for a long term project. Their superiors have to take that into account if they decide to shake things up.