After overcoming offensive struggles en route to two 1-0 shutout victories to start the season, the Philadelphia Union’s lack of attacking cohesion finally caught up to them during a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy Saturday.
Watch: Full match highlights
The Union failed to register a shot on goal at The Home Depot Center despite playing with a man advantage for nearly half of the match. LA’s Chris Birchall was shown red in the 53rd minute, but the Galaxy packed it in, slowed the pace of the match down, and prevented Philadelphia from generating the chances they needed to equalize.
“I don’t think there was enough rhythm with the play from us,” defender Danny Califf explained after the match. “I think, from both sides, it was a pretty physical match and things got a little chippy. We weren’t sharp and it showed. The Galaxy put in a couple of really good set pieces and got a good goal on a set piece. They defended really well and we couldn’t figure out how to break them down.”
[inline_node:332483]Despite featuring a dynamic attacking trio of Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz and Danny Mwanga, the Union have yet to translate their offensive talent into production in 2011.
Le Toux is still nursing an ankle injury suffered in preseason, while Ruiz has yet to find his place in the attack despite tallying an opportunistic game-winner vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps. Mwanga was ineffective on Saturday in a wide role before coming off at the break.
“We didn’t play well in the first half,” said Ruiz, who suffered a slight right shoulder strain in the final minutes of the match. “In the second half, we obviously played better because they played with 10 men, but we didn’t find the space to try and score. I think we played too many long balls and that was easy for them because everybody was defending.”
Part of Philadelphia’s problem was a lack of service from the midfield. The Union were unable to generate an effective counter attack and couldn't break down LA’s defense with sustained possession. The result was little to no space in the Galaxy’s defensive third, and ultimately no goals for the visiting side.
“We would have liked to, with a man advantage, be a little bit sharper in the final third of the field,” said Califf. “I think we were lacking the final pass a lot of the times. I think sometimes our play out of the back was a little too slow so it didn’t allow the guys in the front the time to complete some of the combinations.”
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Fortunately for Philadelphia, a US Open Cup play-in match vs. D.C. United awaits on Wednesday, offering the Union a chance to turn the page and establish momentum heading into a league showdown with the New York Red Bulls next Saturday. Despite the loss, Peter Nowak’s side remain in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.
“We lost but we are going to keep going forward,” said Ruiz.