A standing room only crowd was treated to an early goal from Kacper Przybylko but the second half fireworks that have been so frequent this year never materialized in a 1-1 draw with mighty LAFC.
Przybylko had the third largest crowd in Talen Energy Stadium history — the seventh sellout this season at 19,145 — on their feet early when he sent a looping header over the reach of Tyler Miller off a cross from Fafa Picault in just the third minute.
The goal was a statement of intent and proof that Przybylko, who is now only two goals off C.J. Sapong’s single-season franchise goal record of 16, intended to make good on his comments after the Atlanta United win that LAFC was going to need a “little bit of luck” to beat the Union in their house.
Whether you call it luck or a fortuitous bounce, LAFC did equalize before halftime Diego Rossi found Mark Anthony Kaye in the box for a chip toward goal that caromed off the crossbar and fell to the feet of Carlos Vela. Vela, who was making his return to the lineup after being out for two games with a hamstring injury, was able to get the ball through traffic and deflect it into the back of the net to level the score and put him three away from Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez’s single-season MLS goal-scoring mark of 31 he set last season.
LAFC outshot the Union 16-9 and were robbed a couple times by Andre Blake, but it was Miller’s save on Brenden Aaronson in the 23rd minute that proved a pivotal play for the visitors. The play started when Aaronson picked off a pass in the midfield and charged forward into space, danced through a couple defenders and fired off a shot in the box Miller was able to stretch down to get and knock out for a corner.
Following the equalizer, the two teams traded spells of attacking but neither team could find the breakthrough despite an injection of pace and energy from Sergio Santos off the bench for the Union and a great chance for Adama Diomonde, who was played in behind on a through ball from Mark-Anthony Kaye but wasn’t able to beat Blake with the shot.
The Union had a penalty shout for a handball late, but the draw was a fair result for both teams even if it was more harmful for the Union in their chase for an Eastern Conference crown. LAFC celebrated winning the Western Conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday night when Minnesota United lost.
With NYCFC’s 2-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes earlier in the day Saturday and the Union’s draw, the Blue and Gold sit five points behind the Pigeons in second place. Atlanta United lost to Columbus on Saturday night to move four points behind the Union in third place but that’s with a game in hand.