Preview: LAFC visit Philadelphia with plenty to play for as MLS season winds

LAFC visit
ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 07: Orlando City forward Chris Mueller (9) and Los Angeles FC midfielder Lee Nguyen (24) fight for the ball during the soccer match between LAFC and Orlando City on September 7, 2019, at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Preview — Until now, the road for LAFC has been clear and easy. Jumping out to the top spot in the league early in the season, and not letting up since. However, LAFC find themselves the midst of their first real rough patch, at the worst time possible.

Already having gone three matches without a win, the longest stretch of the season, LAFC visit a tough Philadelphia Union squad just waiting to welcome the league leaders.

LAFC Visit Philadelphia Squad Ready To Take Three Points In Supporter’s Shield Race

Having last played August 31, Philadelphia were fortunate enough to avoid having to play while dealing with a depleted squad. With nine players returning from their respective countries, the Union will be at full strength and rested for LAFC.

However, Los Angeles will also have their regular starters returning from International duty. In addition to those returning is forward Carlos Vela, who had hamstring issues, but should be healthy and ready to return himself. With both teams needing three points in the playoff push, Saturday’s match between two of the best shouldn’t be missed.

Philadelphia Flying

The Union come into Saturday playing some of their best football at the moment. In addition to winning four of their last five matches, the Union have gone unbeaten in their last seven matches at home. Scoring 13 goals over the last five matches, and in a fight for top spot in the East, the Union are more than confident heading into the weekend.

“LAFC, I wish you a lot of luck,” said Union forward Kacper Pryzbylko.

After Philadelphia beat Atlanta United 3-1 at home, Pryzbylko made it clear to reporters he, and the Union, were ready. He went on, “This is our house. This is our stadium. We have great supporters. And we’re waiting for you guys.”

The Union have earned the right to be confident when playing host. Not only winners in their last four matches at home, but doing so with a combined score of 10-3. With LAFC coming into Philly with bad intentions and a full squad of their own, it might take more than confidence to get the three points.

LAFC’s Summer Struggles

In late June, LAFC suffered a surprising, and odd, 1-0 loss on the road to the lowly Colorado Rapids. What made the match weird was how stifled the attack was. With a full squad, and winning possession, 66-34 percent, LAFC couldn’t find the goal. 564 passes, five corners, only three shots on goal. The Rapids only needed two shots on goal to find the winner. It was truly LAFC’s most odd outing, leaving many to write it off as a one time mental lapse, moving on. However, things haven’t been quite right since that match.

On paper, Los Angeles look to be the same dominant team they have been all year, boasting a record of 19-4-6, and league leading 63 points. But take a closer look. Including the Colorado upset, three of LAFC’s four losses this year have come within the last three months. In addition, there was also the lackluster performance in the Quarter-Final loss to Portland in the US Open Cup.

Writing off the latest stretch of struggles would be all too easy. Pointing to a rotated squad, while missing top players. However, even in some of their wins as of late, this has not looked like the dominant LAFC that roamed MLS earlier this season.

Including Saturday, LAFC have five matches left in the season. Having had help clinching the Western Conference at mid-week, LA still need nine points to clinch the Supporter’s Shield. With teams starting to catch fire at the perfect time, LAFC will need three points this weekend, for nothing more than momentum heading into the postseason.

Prediction: LAFC visit Philadelphia

The aforementioned international break is over, and players have begun to return to their clubs for the final stretch of the season. Philadelphia have more at stake in this match, with NYCFC only three points ahead at the top of the Eastern Conference. Przybylko will be the one to watch, as he not only has been the most vocal, he’s also backed it up. Scoring in four of the last five matches for the Union, he will be looking to back up his statements early.

For LAFC, the fact that they are in the middle of their longest stretch without a win, and it’s only been three games, tells the story of their dominance. While many expected LAFC to hit a rough patch at some point this season, nobody thought it would come with LA so close to finish line.

In all likelihood, the return of key squad members, and the possible return of Vela, even if limited, should be enough to lift LAFC on the road. With the West already won, and a first-round bye in hand, LAFC seem set-up for a tough loss on the road. However, given the stretch they’ve had, this team will be looking to make a statement of their own going into the playoffs. LAFC win on Saturday, 3-2.

 

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