Match Recap

TAKEAWAYS | CCL Semifinal Chaos In Philadelphia 4/26/23

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The stat was so incredible, I had to rewind twice to hear it.

The Philadelphia Union has never beaten LAFC. In six matches between the two, LAFC holds the edge with two wins - including last year’s MLS Cup - and four draws.

An interesting stat but not remarkable.

The stat I had to hear again was in the last five matches between the two, the Union has led in every single one. And yet, LAFC remains unbeaten. That’s incredible.


And LAFC did it once again in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal. Down a goal in stoppage time, Kellyn Acosta bounced a shot over the outstretched hand of Andre Blake to steal a draw - and an all-important away goal.

Now, as we move to Los Angeles for the second leg, after everything that has happened between the two teams, I can only imagine what awaits us on Tuesday at BMO Stadium.

Here are the Takeaways from LAFC 1-1 draw in Philadelphia:


That Was A Philly Game

Intense. Chippy. Back and forth. Direct. That was a Philadelphia Union-style match if I’ve ever seen one.

Jim Curtin’s team has to be wondering what they have to do to finally get one over on LAFC. Because on Wednesday night, they made that match into exactly what they wanted.

The Union did their usual thing. They ran downhill. Fought for ever second ball. They got bodies in the penalty area. They played nearly everything direct and vertical. And for long periods, it looked like they’d capitalize on the way the match was playing out.

For LAFC’s part, they lacked rhythm and composure for long stretches. Away from home, Steve Cherundolo’s team was structurally set up to be compact. You could tell that particular attention was paid to winning second balls by keeping lines tight. Offensively, LAFC wanted to hit the Union on the counter.

The plan was sound. LAFC’s decision-making and sharpness weren’t.

There were opportunities. A couple of times LAFC won the ball with the Union high up the field. But those opportunities were squandered by indecisiveness or worse, misplaced passes that put the Union back on the attack.

But still, LAFC salvaged a draw and got an away goal. It’s not a performance Cherundolo will be happy with. Although if that was Philly’s best shot, the Black & Gold have to like their chances in the second leg.


A Battle

The Jesus David Murillo and Aaron Long versus Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre battle was the main event on Wednesday in Chester, PA.

The Union forwards landed plenty of punches but never found the knockout blow. Uhre, in particular, was a handful. He got a run on Murillo a couple of times. One of which required a smart intervention by John McCarthy, rushing quickly off his line to take away Uhre’s angle in a 1v1 with the LAFC goalkeeper.

Murillo and Long got better as the night went on. But what makes those two forwards so tough to play against is that they’re relentless. They chase every ball. They clean up after one another. They aren’t afraid of contact. And they never stop running in behind.

Philadelphia's go-to tactic is switching the point of attack and getting those forwards running as the opposition defense shifts. It creates chaos, as they don’t even have to win the ball cleanly because the other forward is lurking to pick up second balls.

In the second half, it looked like Cherundolo asked Kellyn Acosta to sit back closer to Ilie Sánchez to assist with Carranza and Uhre. That was a smart adjustment because the Union forwards were getting in too many 1v1 or 2v2 matchups with LAFC’s center backs.

But this is definitely a matchup to keep an eye on in the return leg.


Give And Take

Kellyn Acosta doesn’t score many goals but when he does, they’re important.

Acosta had the opening goal of the 2022 MLS Cup final. In this one, he contributed to the opener in a way he’d like to forget.

VAR is always watching and Acosta was caught this time. Acosta was adjudged to have blocked Jack McGlynn’s shot with his right arm. Daniel Gazdag stepped up to convert the penalty in the 86th minute and Philly had what looked like the winning goal.

But Acosta leveled the score in the 90+1 minute. The finish was slightly fortuitous, but the setup was all soccer IQ.

Recovering an errant pass 35 yards from the Union goal, Acosta played the ball forward and never stopped running.

By starting his run from deep and arriving in the box, Acosta is almost impossible to get a body on. He outruns his marker in midfield and the Philly backline can’t account for the extra body in the box.

Making deep runs and finishing actions in the box is one of the core principles stressed by the LAFC coaching staff. It’s not always glamorous but it asks serious questions of opposing defenses.

It was nice to see Acosta rewarded for making a smart decision late in the match after his contribution to the Philadelphia goal. And it could prove to be vital with LAFC now holding an away goal advantage.

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