It was an MLS After Dark match-up for the ages in Los Angeles. Another chapter in the East v West sports book as Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union made the trip to California to take on Western Conference leaders LAFC. This would be one of those ‘massive tests’ for the black and gold, who’ve enjoyed a near perfect start to the season. In a way, the test was passed. While the team were unable to get all three points, they did fight hard to finish with the draw and points split, 2-2.
The thing about playing at Banc of California Stadium is, you want to score early if you're the away side. You won't ever be up enough to completely silence the crowd — just ask Sporting KC — but the longer you go without a goal, the easier it gets for the black and gold to settle in. Unfortunately, Philly knew this, and struck early with a goal in the ninth minute of the match. The finish was calm, but the spotlight was the precise passing in the lead-up.
Getting hit in the mouth early definitely woke up LAFC, as they settled into the match and started piling on the chances. Despite peppering the goal, and a handful of corner kicks, they were unable to find the equalizer before the halftime break. The strong finish to the half however gave some hope that the second 45 would go a lot better than the first.
It did too. It took a bit, but LAFC were able to get the equalizer not too deep into the second half. Mahala Opoku was on the end of some great passing, and did the rest himself to even it up at one goal each in the 57th minute of the match.
The lead wouldn't last long, with Philly proving to be a pesky opponent for the black and gold. Julian Carranza got just enough space in the box to fire off a shot while falling away, and somehow put just enough on it to curl into the far post and just find the back of the net. It was the type of strike you can do nothing but tip your cap to because stopping it was almost never going to happen.
If one thing has been apparent with LAFC 2.0, it's how they fight until the very last second. That fight paid off with a late equalizer. Carlos Vela put in a solid ball into the box from a corner kick that bounced around until it found Franco Escobar who struck it true to bring LAFC level late in the match. It was a perfect time for the defender to open his LAFC account.
The fighting spirit boiled over into actual scuffles when Philadelphia began some time wasting in extra time, causing some tense moments as time waned. In the end, nothing could separate two of the best in MLS. This could very well be a matchup we see again come season’s end. For now, LAFC must get ready for the quick turnaround, hosting Portland Timbers this Tuesday in the next round of the U.S. Open Cup.
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