The Galaxy look to slow down a much-improved Philadelphia team that has been stingy on defense and explosive on offense.
CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy will ready themselves for a tough fight against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday (7:30 p.m.; SpectrumSN) night at Dignity Health Sports Park. Both teams are coming off of wins, and both sides have won their last three games. But it should be the Galaxy who have the advantage both talent wise and the fact they’re playing in front of their home crowd.
The Galaxy (4-1-0, 12 points) are currently in third place in the Western Conference and fourth place in the Supporters’ Shield standings having played five games in 2019. The Union (3-2-1, 10 points), have played one more game than the Galaxy and are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference and ninth overall in the league.
Outside of the Galaxy’s loss to FC Dallas in March, The Union will be the best team they’ve faced to date. And if you want a comparison to how Philadelphia is playing, you only need to see the last team they beat — FC Dallas.
POLENTA IS HEALTHY
Diego Polenta was a surprise scratch from last Friday’s win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. An abductor injury sustained earlier in the week was enough of a hiccup to keep Polenta from joining the team in Vancouver, and Dave Romney was called upon to fill that spot.
Romney and Dan Steres filled in nicely, and while there were some shaky moments throughout the first half of the match, the Galaxy defense regrouped and held their first shutout of the season.
But with Polenta healthy enough to be back in the starting lineup, and with his early-season struggles magnified by some poor decision making, there’s still a lot that Polenta has to answer for. Especially with Steres’ rock solid start to the season and with new signing Giancarlo Gonzalez waiting in the wings to take Steres’ spot for the Galaxy’s next game.
Polenta will have to deal with a speedy and dangerous Union team that is looking to continue their hot start as they lean heavily on striker David Accam.
HOW TO HANDLE ACCAM
Continuing the discussion on David Accam is a simple thing to do. Accam has three goals and two assists in just 241 minutes and five games played. He’s started the Union’s last three games and has three goals combined in those starts.
He’s a speedy attacking force that was one of the key reasons the Chicago Fire was so dynamic in 2016 and 2017. Once he was traded to the Union, making 23 appearances in 2018 and scoring just once, he’s needed more help.
“The last three or four games they’ve improved a lot and are winning games,” Galaxy Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto told reporters after training. “They are getting confidence.
“I know (Marco) Fabian (from Guadalajara, Mexico) … they are doing well in their system. They have a really good player in front (Accam), so we need to take care of him.”
Accam is fed by midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, and Fabián and has paired nicely with fellow forward Fabrice-Jean Picault.
The Union, led by head coach Jim Curtin, are a scrappy and creative team with Fabián creating a lot of problems for opposing defenses. If the Galaxy are looking to slow the Union, and by default Accam, down they’ll need to look at controlling the midfield.
If Jonathan dos Santos, Joe Corona, and Sebastian Lletget can keep track of Fabián, and Bedoya they’ll have a better chance of denying service to Accam and Picault.
As was evident in the win over Vancouver, midfield play will control both the success and the failures for the Galaxy. If the Galaxy can limit space in the center of the field and behind the defense, they should be able to keep Accam and the Union in check.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the key to the Galaxy’s success. Curtin knows that, and the Union understands that. But they still have to try and stop him from scoring.
“I expect to score every game, yes,” Ibrahimovic told reporters. “The question is how many? But if I always do that, I don’t know. I try because it’s part of my position. One of the ways to help the team to score. I try, I try. As long as you try, the goals will come. It doesn’t always go my way, but I’m trying. I’m trying.”
But outside of Ibrahimovic, it has been a mixed bag for the Galaxy’s goal scorers. Romain Alessandrini doesn’t have a goal — even as he missed two games with injury and had to be pulled from the season opener early in the first.
The Galaxy’s second-leading scorer is defender Daniel Steres with two goals. Lletget, Dos Santos, and Chris Pontius all have one goal each.
And while the Galaxy should be playing through the six-foot-five Swede, they also need to develop more dangerous attacking options around him they want to keep defenses guessing.
Movement off the ball is vital, but getting goals from other players, creating variety, and playing with unpredictability will also help to build more goal scorers for the Galaxy. And having the confidence to skip Ibrahimovic on occasion, won’t hurt either.
Against Philadelphia, the Galaxy will be going facing another middle-of-the-pack defense that has allowed seven goals on the season (the Galaxy have allowed six). But the Union have allowed just one goal in their last three games while outscoring their opponent 7 to 1. They’re getting better, and the Galaxy need to understand how difficult this game is likely to be.