Preview: LA at Philadelphia
Philadelphia Union (7-13-7, 28 points, 6th in the Eastern Conference) vs. LA Galaxy (16-6-5, 53 points, 1st in the Western Conference)
Los Angeles Galaxy are 1-0-0 all-time against the Philadelphia Union
TV Info - National Broadcast
5 p.m. PT (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
The LA Galaxy come into Philadelphia with hopes of edging ever closer to this year’s Supporters’ Shield crown. They lead Real Salt Lake by two points with three matches to play. Three points against a non-playoff team, even on the road, should be expected by the Galaxy, and they would provide a huge boost to the club’s hopes of winning the Shield.
Peter Nowak’s Union, however, are not the type to just lay down for a high-profile side. They have the spoiler role in mind, and shutting down the likes of Landon Donovan and David Beckham on national TV would be a nice momentum-builder heading into the off-season.
The sides did battle back on May 1st at The Home Depot Center with the Galaxy dominating the first half en route to a 3-1 victory. The second 45 minutes were a different story, however, as Philadelphia picked up their play and went toe-to-toe with Bruce Arena’s squad. Will the home support make a difference this time around?
The Union come into the match officially eliminated from the playoffs. But, including last week’s draw with the Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia have turned PPL Park into something of a stronghold. They have lost only twice in 11 league matches at the new stadium, with the other 10 matches being split with five wins and five ties.
Returning for the LA match should be a host of veterans, many of whom were rested for the Houston game. Captain Danny Califf should return, as should midfielders Stefani Miglioranzi, Justin Mapp and Fred. Everyone wants to be involved when the Galaxy and their marquee names come to town.
“The fans are all talking about it,” rookie Kyle Nakazawa told PhiladelphiaUnion.com this week. “It’s an exciting game to look ahead to. As players, we’re all excited. You want to play the best. You want to measure up against the best.”
Los Angeles come into the match fresh off a 2-1 victory in the Honda SuperClasico with their arch-rivals Chivas USA. English superstar David Beckham stamped his presence on the game with a beautifully placed freekick goal, his first for the Galaxy in over a year. The midfielder will be depended on heavily in the match at PPL Park as his team have a number of players questionable for the match, including Gregg Berhalter, Dema Kovalenko and Leonardo.
Head coach Bruce Arena was pleased with his team’s win over Chivas and with the fact that his side are in first place at this stage in the season. However, he suggested that the final matches of the regular season will be challenging.
“We’re moving forward, starting to get some of our players back, but that’s obviously part of the plan in the last month of the season,” Arena said. “We’re 27 weeks in and it hasn’t been perfect, but we’ve been in first place for 27 weeks. It’s not going to be easy the next three games.”
Heroes & Villains
Danny Califf vs. Landon Donovan: Califf spent five years with the Galaxy at the beginning of the decade but never crossed paths with Donovan. The Union captain left for the San Jose Earthquakes just as Donovan was arriving in SoCal.
They should cross paths a few times in this match when Donovan cuts to the middle, as he likes to do. At those moments, Califf will look to pressure Donovan before he can make that incisive pass or hit a shot. If Califf can reduce Donovan’s space in the middle and break up his plays coming into the box, the Union’s chances are greatly improved.
Stat That Makes You Go “Hm...”
LA’s Edson Buddle (15 goals) and Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux (13 goals) have each scored more than a third of the goals scored by both teams (LA, 40; Philadelphia, 32).
Keys to the Game
- Must avoid the intimidation factor: They are in your house.
- Keep the ball away from Landon Donovan.
- LA are the best team in the league, Philly are out of the playoffs. LA must play that way.
- Get shots on Union keeper, whose mistakes have undermined Philly all season.