Steve Carrillo

Preview: LA Galaxy vs Philadelphia Union – A Battle at the Bottom

The LA Galaxy (2-5-0) are in unfamiliar territory. The self-proclaimed “biggest club in Major League Soccer” sits 20th in the table of twenty-two MLS teams, has lost five of its first seven games, has lost three out of their last four home games, and was just embarrassed by the Seattle Sounders who, in their last two games in Carson, have outscored the Galaxy 7 to 2. To say it’s been a slow start would be a disservice to the slow starts and championship runs of years past.

And while an adjustment period for the new front office and head coach were expected, not many predicted the off-the-field and on-the-field turmoil the Galaxy are currently experiencing. Thus adding another layer of complexity for a fan base with an already tenuous hold on their patience.


Surprisingly, it will be a battle with the worst team in MLS – the visiting Philadelphia Union (0-4-3) – that could change the entire course of the season if the Galaxy aren’t careful.

The Union enters StubHub Center on Saturday night (7:30 PM, TV – SpectrumSN & SpectrumDeportes) without a win on the season. The last time they tasted victory was August 27, 2016, when they hosted Sporting KC. Their last road victory was just three days before that when they beat Columbus Crew. They finished 6th in the Eastern Conference last year but have never tasted wide-ranging success in MLS.

To make matters worse for the Union, they’ve only won once at StubHub center (July 4, 2012) and that was when Jack McInerney – then a member of the Union – scored to seal the victory. Overall, the Galaxy holds a firm grasp on the meetings between these two clubs going 6-1-2 all-time in the series and 4-1-0 at home. The Galaxy have scored 22 goals and allowed just 9 when facing the Union and have a +9 goal differential at home against them (14 GF, 5 GA).

But the Galaxy haven’t beaten a team that has had its full complement of 11 players in 2017. The wins over Montreal and Real Salt Lake both occurred after those teams received red cards. And three of the Galaxy’s seven games have been played without 22-players on the field (2 red cards worked in favor of the Galaxy, one worked against them).

These two teams met last year and played to an exciting 2-2 draw in Philadelphia. Robbie Rogers and Mike Magee scored goals in that game but were bookended by goals from Vincent Nogueira and Keegan Rosenberry. As a side note, this was one of two games that Galaxy goalkeeper Dan Kennedy actually started in 2016. And it turned into his last professional minutes for his 10-year career.

The Galaxy are expected to have all players available (Robbie Rogers (Ankle Surgery); Season Ending Injury List <?>and Sebastian Lletget (Foot Fracture) are long term injuries and will just be considered not available until their status is updated). Clement Diop is the only question mark as he’s still recovering from an injury he sustained in the loss to Orlando. He was training with the club but is still recovering. If he doesn’t make the bench expect Jon Kempin to replace him. Brian Rowe will be starting in goal and the full compliment of players in front of him shouldn’t change. Expect a repeat lineup from the team that got destroyed by Seattle.

The Union are expected to get Keegan Rosenberry back at right back and should see much of last week’s lineup that drew the Impact 3-3 at home. Those interested in seeing Oguchi Onyewu on the field might be disappointed. He hasn’t started the last two games and may be on the outside of Head Coach Jim Curtain’s plans for the game.

C.J. Sapong has scored four goals on the season and is the team leader in the category followed by Roland Alberg who has two goals. Both players scored in last week’s game and could be riding a bit of a high as the offense really came alive. But the defense faltered and a stoppage time goal crushed the Union on their home grass.

But the really intriguing part to this matchup is that both coaches, Curt Onalfo for the Galaxy, and Curtain for the Union, are on the hot seat – and the seats are getting very warm. If Curtain loses this game it could be the last straw. And perhaps the same could be said for Onalfo. They’re both in different situations with Curtain having helmed the Union since the 2014 season and Onalfo just eight games through the 2017 season. But the pressures may be about the same.

Curtain’s results have never had the Union higher than 6th in the Eastern Conference but Onalfo’s team may have stopped playing for him last weekend. Both situations are probably intenable, but a win by either team could at least prolong their tenures. A loss would invite large amounts of criticism.

This is the equivalent of a relegation battle in leagues across the world. Except there won’t be the satisfaction of seeing a team pushed down a league due to poor play. For that, the Galaxy should be thankful. But the intrigue of this game is amazingly heightened for a match just 8 weeks into the season.

Losing has repercussions in every sports league around the league. But will those repercussions be swift if the Galaxy or the Union don’t win on Saturday night? Perhaps the post-game press conferences will be more telling than either team’s performance on the field?

It’s not a stretch to say that both front offices will be paying very close attention to this game. And the results could shape the rest of the season for both teams. Soccer doesn’t get more interesting than this.