Union Aim to Split Season Series with Galaxy

Union Aim to Split Season Series with Galaxy

  • Posted by Kevin Kinkead
  • On October 5, 2010
  • Danny Mwanga, David Beckham, Edson Buddle, Kevin Kinkead, Landon Donovan, Peter Nowak, PPL Park, Sebastien Le Toux

Philadelphia hosts LA this Thursday. (Getty Images)

By Kevin Kinkead

Los Angeles. New York. Columbus.

Three remaining games for the Philadelphia Union, against three of the top five squads in MLS. It’s only fitting that the final test for this young expansion side, will come against the league’s best teams.

Though the Union are eliminated from the playoffs, it’s about ending the season on a positive note, and carrying the momentum into year number two.

Peter Nowak’s squad will want to forget about the May 1st trip to Carson, California. The Union conceded just 56 seconds into the game, the Galaxy cruising to a 3-1 win. The lone Union bright spot was a late goal from Jack McInerney, his first as a pro.

Fast forward to October, and the Galaxy atop the standings on 53 points.

If this were week 16 of the NFL season, we might be talking about putting in the backups. But regular season supremacy is on the line. A win Thursday can move the Galaxy 5 points clear of Real Salt Lake at the top of the table, another step towards bringing the Supporter’s Shield back to Los Angeles. RSL would then need to get a positive result against New York on Saturday, a Red Bulls side which will lose several players to international call-ups.

Three’s Company

In Philadelphia meantime, a sellout crowd will witness three of the best players in MLS this Thursday . (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT))

Have a look at these statlines-

Sebastien Le Toux- 13 goals, 10 assists , 3 game winning goals

Edson Buddle- 15 goals, 2 assists, 6 game winning goals

Landon Donovan- 7 goals, 14 assists, 2 game winning goals

Safe to say, the key to this game will be finding these players, or denying them the ball. Le Toux, Donovan, and Buddle are all MVP candidates, and they’ve combined for 35 goals and 26 assists this year.

In fact, Le Toux has been involved in 23 of the Union’s 32 goals this season. He’s played 25 games this year, only Jordan Harvey and Michael Orozco-Fiscal logging more minutes. It’s easy to see why Le Toux’s trap and finish against Houston on Saturday, received a nomination for goal of the week.

Inside the Statistics

-The Galaxy have the best road record in MLS, posting an 8-3-3 mark away from the Home Depot Center. But the Union have only lost twice at PPL Park this year. Only FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake have lost fewer games on their home field.

-While Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle lead Los Angeles in the scoring department, 14 different Galaxy players have tallied this year.

-And the Galaxy are 15-0-0 when scoring first. They are only MLS team not to drop a point when bagging the game opener. When conceding first, the Union are 2-11-3 on the season. That means the Union have salvaged 9 points this year, even when the other team strikes first. No other team in MLS has salvaged more points than the Union, when conceding the first goal.

-Both teams are undefeated when leading at the half. Philadelphia: 4-0-2, Los Angeles: 14-0-0.

-When trailing at the half, the Union have come back to win two games this year. L.A. has not won a game this year when surrendering the half time lead. (0-4-1)

What should we expect from Los Angeles?

Bruce Arena has used different formations and pairings throughout the year. Obviously, injuries, national team duties, and suspensions are reasons to change the starting XI. But Arena is also trying to work David Beckham back into the midfield. Beckham missed much of the Galaxy season with that Achilles injury, but figures to have a key role in the Los Angeles playoff push.

Against New York, Beckham was used on the outside right flank. But his lack of pace, and perceived inability to cover ground, stalled the Los Angeles offense. The midfield was unable to distribute and get much of anything going.

But Sunday against Chivas, Arena paired Beckham in the central midfield with Juninho, using the Brazilian in his typical holding role while Beckham was given room to maneuver in front of him. Chris Birchall and Michael Stephens played on the flanks, while Landon Donovan moved up top with Edson Buddle. The change in formation resulted in a 2 to 1 win, Beckham completing 77% of his passes and committing just one foul in the process.