Less than a minute into their 5th official MLS match, the Philadelphia Union were victimized by the hottest player in the league. LA Galaxy forward Edson Buddle streaked down the sideline, drew the Union defenders towards him, and then laid a perfect pass to A.J. DeLaGarza who drilled the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 Galaxy lead.
The Galaxy is what the Union hope to become one day soon, a true MLS title contender with star players dotting the roster and a winning tradition. Even with injured superstar David Beckham unable to play, the Galaxy still fielded the likes of Buddle, who would later tally his league-leading 9th goal, U.S. national team star Landon Donovan, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and more. The Galaxy lost the MLS Cup final a year ago in an upset.
The Union, playing yet another away match as their future home PPL Park in Chester just outside of Philly is being completed for a June 2010 opening, never recovered from that early goal and deficit. But once again the Philly 11 established that they don’t lie down for anyone. Peter Nowak’s side played hard the entire match, and had some scoring opportunities of their own. In fact, following that first goal, the Union controlled play for most of the next 25 minutes.
The Galaxy got a break in the Union end, and a precise corner kick by Landon Donovan found Alex Gordon in front. His header was stopped by goalie Chris Seitz, but the rebound went right out to Buddle. The LA star took one swipe, had his shot blocked, and then made a nifty spin move on his own rebound to drill the ball home for a 2-0 lead. Just before the half was to end, it was Donovan again feeding Buddle as they blitzed the Union defense, and Buddle’s 2nd goal made it 3-0 at intermission.
The bad news wasn’t even over for the Union, as for the 3rd time already this season a player received a first half red card. This time it was Stafani Maglioranzi given the boot, and Philly was forced to play the entire 2nd half trailing by 3 goals and now a man short. Despite this self-inflicted disadvantage, the club pressed play and got a goal. Teenager and likely future Union star Jack McInerney (pictured) used his great speed to break towards the Galaxy goal, took a pass from midfielder Fred, and slipped the ball in for his first of what should be many MLS scores.
Following the loss, Nowak summed up the club’s initial struggles: “We knew it was going to take time, and more experience. It’s going to take time to get the players familiar with each other. After our win in the second game, I think we forgot we were an expansion team. And sometimes we got punished by ourselves.”
The 3rd consecutive loss leaves the Union sitting with a 1-4 record in MLS play headed into yet another road matchup, this time against defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake. Against LA, the Union continued to display the twin traits that have characterized their early season play thus far: gritty determination, and a disturbing lack of discipline.
The team takes play to their opponents and shows great skill for large stretches, but particularly with injured forward Sebastien LeToux out with a nagging injury, they appear short on goal-scoring finishers. On the defensive end they have had a number of key breakdowns leading to easy opponent goals, and have also lost their cool in outbursts that have cost them to play shorthanded.
It doesn’t get any easier for the youthful Union expansion club in travelling to Salt Lake City and meeting the champions. The club has the talent to win at Rio Tinto Stadium, but only if they play disciplined in their own end this time. The Union also announced during the week that the club would play an exhibition match on July 21st at Lincoln Financial Field against legendary English club Manchester United, an event that is sure to draw a huge crowd and create tremendous local excitement.