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Philadelphia Union and LAFC battle to a 2-2 draw in match-up of conference leaders

Gazdag and Carranza combined twice on goals but LAFC both times with an equalizer

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

If the LAFC game at Banc of California two years ago put the Philadelphia Union on the map, Saturday night’s return trip served notice of just how big of an acquisition Julian Carranza has been.

The 21-year-old Argentine striker on season-long loan from Inter Miami helped create a goal tapped in by Daniel Gazdag in the first half and added a highlight-reel strike of his own in the second half. Unfortunately for the visitors, LAFC twice equalized and the top teams in each conference ended up sharing a point.

The draw is the third straight for the Union and follows up another tough draw against Western Conference opponent Nashville SC on opening day of their new 30,000-seat palace. Yes, they also blew a lead in Nashville and they haven’t won now in four straight but they’re still top of the table as they continue a brutal month of travel with trips to Orlando City Tuesday for U.S. Open Cup and another West Coast trip to face the Portland Timbers still on the May docket.

Saturday night’s late night game in Los Angeles didn’t have the same feel as the last meeting there when the Union played the role of the plucky upstart punching up against the league darlings. Instead it felt every bit the possible MLS Cup final it was billed to be between two evenly matched teams.

Though LAFC’s firepower was on display early, Carranza helped get the Union going when he won the ball near midfield, pushed forward and laid it off to Kai Wagner to his left, who crossed a strike into Daniel Gazdag at the far post for a tap-in.

Playing with the 1-0 lead, the Union were able to settle in and limit opportunities to the hosts, stepping up on a number of occasions with a timely block or clearance. They carried that momentum into the second half but some sloppiness in the back led to an equalizer from Kwadwo Opoku. It was a play Andre Blake will certainly want back.

Eleven minutes later, Carranza — who paired with Cory Burke because Mikael Uhre is back home nursing discomfort in his quad — collected a pass from Gazdag in the box and uncorked a curling shot as he was falling down that nestled into the side of the net. The goal was the fourth (and best so far) of the season for Carranza and appeared to be what the Union needed to take all three points but Franco Escobar delivered another equalizer in the 82nd minute.

Adding to the frustration was a run minutes earlier by substitute Sergio Santos where he had Carranza wide open in the box for what would’ve been the third goal of the game. Instead, the Union will head to Orlando mulling more dropped points from a late lead despite holding up well against an LAFC attack that fired off 22 shots on the night but had eight of those blocked.