Match #15 Preview: Philadelphia Union At LA Galaxy

CARSON, CA - APRIL 02: Omar Gonzalez #4 of the Los Angeles Galaxy attempts to headbut the ball for a goal during a match vs the Philadelphia Union at The Home Depot Center on April 2, 2011 in Carson, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Setting: Wednesday, July 4 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.; kickoff scheduled for 10:38:00 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (JP Dellacamera, Bob Rigby), with coverage beginning at 10:00 PM Eastern with a pre-game show / KDOC-TV (Mark Rogondino, Cobi Jones, Heidi Watney), KWHY-TV (Adrian Garcia Marquez, Francisco Pinto), KWKW-AM (Rolando Gonzalez, Armando Aguayo), KTLK-AM/lagalaxy.com (Joe Tutino, Ralph Perez) in Los Angeles / MLS Live, Direct Kick (CSN Philadelphia feed)

LA's Record: 6-9-2, 20 points (sixth in West)

LA's Last Match: L, 4-3 at San Jose

Philadelphia vs. LA Last Season: 0-1-1 (Philadelphia 0 @ LA 1 on April 2; LA 1 @ Philadelphia 1 on May 12)

For the LA Perspective, Visit LAG Confidential

The Philadelphia Union's road swing continues late tomorrow night at the location of their sole road victory this season, The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, though this time they will be taking on the LA Galaxy, not Chivas USA. Like the Union, the Galaxy are coming off a weekend loss, though the Union's was much more nondescript than the latest Cali Clasico ended. In what had to be the wildest match throughout the entirety of Major League Soccer so far this season, the Galaxy conceded inside of ten minutes, only to score three in a row (including an Earthquakes own goal)...then completely lose their composure and give up the next three, taking a 4-3 loss. An absolutely nutsy affair at a sold out Stanford Stadium with over 50,000 on hand. And, of course, it wouldn't be a real MLS match if there weren't accusations of the referee not being up to snuff, to put it lightly. Included in the fracas was David Beckham getting a little bit edgy -- not the first time, and it won't be the last time -- and sending a perfect cross right at an injured Sam Cronin well after play was stopped so he could be attended to. Of course, you could ask whether the Olympics situation made him a bit more prone to losing his temper, but the pot was already boiling, so to speak, pretty heavily throughout both rosters. Either way, he was given a yellow card for being out of line, and that resulted in an automatic one-match suspension for accumulation of too many yellow cards. So he won't be playing tomorrow against the Union.

Even before Sunday's match, the Galaxy have been one of the most interesting stories to follow this season. Not because they're on record pace for points for yet another season, but for the exact opposite reason. The Galaxy spent the first third of the MLS season in the basement of the Western Conference, confounding just about everyone. They had significant injuries, certainly, and still do, but even so, the Galaxy over the past handful of years have had the reputation of an unstoppable force, particularly during the regular season. The Galaxy are the two-time defending holders of the Supporter's Shield. But they appear to have turned a corner, winning three in a row up until Sunday, after a seven match winless streak (five losses, two draws). Their offense in particular has been re-energized, with the team scoring thrice in each of their last three matches. MLS 2011 defender of the year Omar Gonzalez has fully recovered from an ACL tear and is ready to make his season debut tomorrow. And goalkeeper Josh Saunders is back as of a couple of weeks ago, another positive sign. Despite their horrid stretch, they're just two points out of the fifth seed in the Western Conference entering tomorrow, so a playoff spot is still right there for them. And with Gonzalez and Saunders back, plus Beckham not having an extended Olympics absence, and Edson Buddle returning to the team in three to six weeks after right knee surgery, they certainly still have the talent to not just claim a postseason spot, but to try to repeat as MLS Cup Champions.

Philadelphia's ambitions aren't quite the same. They deserved better than they got in Houston on Saturday night, but if they want to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs, mental victories aren't useful anymore. The vibrant offense that wowed fans against the Harrisburg City Islanders in U.S. Open Cup play and Sporting KC (and D.C. United, to an extent) in MLS play was flickering at best in Houston. Fortunately for them, the key to their offensive surge, Jack McInerney, has recovered from a stomach bug that kept him out of the match against the Dynamo. Freddy Adu has not continued his aggressive play from earlier this season that saw him constantly taking on and beating players one-on-one. While about six weeks ago it seemed he was getting stronger with every passing match, it now seems like he's becoming more invisible with every passing match. It's led to him only seeing sixty minutes or so of action in the past few weeks before being subbed out, and on Saturday against the Dynamo, he rode the bench, only coming on (very) late to replace an injured Sheanon Williams as part of Philadelphia's last-ditch attempt to equalize. Antoine Hoppenot, meanwhile, continues to thoroughly impress as a super-sub, and is going to start eating into Adu's minutes if Adu can't reclaim a starting spot. Adu might be the single-most expensive piece on Philadelphia's roster, but John Hackworth has no choice but to look elsewhere in order to see through his dueling interests of putting out the most competitive lineup possible and developing the Union's cache of young players.

Projected starters, injury reports, and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Daniel, Carroll, Gomez, Lahoud; Pajoy, McInerney

Los Angeles: Saunders; Dunivant, Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Franklin; Magee, Juninho, Sarvas, Jimenez; Keane, Donovan

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Chandler Hoffman (left big toe fracture) and Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms) are unavailable. Sheanon Williams (right big toe fracture recovery) is "probable".

For Los Angeles, Andrew Boyens (sports hernia surgery), Edson Buddle (right knee surgery), Dan Keat (right knee surgery), and Leonardo (right knee inflammation) are out. Former Union midfielder Kyle Nakazawa is considered "questionable" due to back spasms. As previously mentioned, David Beckham is ineligible to play for the Galaxy due to suspension.

Of note:

  • Armando Villarreal is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In just two career MLS matches, Villarreal has called an average of 19 fouls per match (relatively low as these referees tend to go, but small sample size of course), given an average of two yellow cards per match, handed out a total of one red card, and hasn't awarded any penalty kicks. Like on Saturday in Houston, the Union get an inexperienced match referee (though Villarreal has been a fourth official in MLS for a while now). We'll see if Villarreal becomes a factor in the outcome like Fotis Bazakos was on Saturday.
  • Juninho is one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation, like what David Beckham is serving. Meanwhile, Raymon Gaddis returns for Philadelphia after serving a suspension of his own.
  • If you recall (and I figure a lot of you do just as I do), McInerney scored his first-ever MLS goal at The Home Depot Center against the Galaxy. It was a late, and frankly meaningless, tally in a 3-1 loss to LA that saw them score against the Union so early in the match that the kickoff confetti was still falling. Speaking of which, hopefully we don't see that junk, or the distracting and dangerous streamers that just waste time.
  • Ten of the 27 goals the Galaxy have conceded in MLS play this season have come in the final half-hour of matches. Eleven of the Union's 17 conceded goals have come during that timeframe.
  • On a similar note, ten of the 25 goals the Galaxy have scored in MLS play this season have come in the final half-hour of matches. There could be late goals in this one.
  • The Galaxy are a somewhat remarkable 4-3-0 when scoring first, and 2-6-2 when conceding first. So the first goal in this one might not matter that much.
  • The halftime score might not matter that much either with this LA team. They're 3-2-0 when leading at halftime and 2-3-1 when tied at halftime.
  • Here's a little bit of a fluky stat: the Galaxy have benefited from two own goals, and have conceded two own goals. The Union haven't had an own goal for or against them to this point in the MLS season.
  • The Galaxy have yet to lose to the Union (3-0-1 all-time against Philadelphia), with the Union losing both times they've visited the Galaxy.
The Hackworth train looks get back on track against a Los Angeles team that is probably looking to prove they're better than the side that gave up two leads, and four goals, this past Sunday. Happy Fourth of July to everyone, and if you're not out taking in the fireworks, hope you can join us for a late-night gamethread!
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