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Concacaf Champions League semifinal will be a ‘fight’



Photo by Matthew Ralph

It’s not necessarily a grudge match or a rematch and it’s two matches instead of one but the Concacaf Champions League semifinal between the Philadelphia Union and LAFC promises to be a clash of styles and a fight to the finish.

“I think you go to the old boxing adage that styles make fights,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said Tuesday. “It’s different styles no question about that.”

LAFC beat the Union on penalties to decide a thrilling MLS Cup final just 172 days ago in Los Angeles. For about three minutes after Jack Elliott scored a goal to put the visitors up, it felt like the Union would be lifting the trophy but a heartbreaking late equalizer by Gareth Bale set up the dramatic penalty kick ending.

Many of the fans who were in the building at cheering on at a watch party at Subaru Park will be back tonight for a 9 p.m. game that will mark the first of two legs for the semifinal and the first of two trips LAFC is making to Chester.

LAFC’s last visit to Subaru Park ended in a 1-1 draw in September 2019. The teams played to a 3-3 draw in 2020 and a 2-2 draw in Los Angeles during the regular season last year. Essentially the teams have played each other even with six goals apiece over that three game span.

“We tend to bring out the best in each other,” Curtin said.

This semifinal marks the second time two MLS teams will meet at this stage of the competition. Seattle Sounders beat NYCFC last year en route to their championship last season.

The match will be a showcase for MLS of two of their most consistent teams over the last four seasons. LAFC has a slight edge with two Supporters’ Shields, an MLS Cup and CCL final appearance but the Union have a Supporters’ Shield, an MLS Cup final appearance a CCL semifinal appearance. Their win over Atlas FC in the quarterfinal was a big step forward; advancing to the final would be an even bigger feather in their cap.

“For me right now they’re the best team in MLS,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “But we’re right up there as well.”

Though LAFC is known for their big name stars like Carlos Vela, Giorgio Chiellini, Dénis Bouanga and their Philadelphia native goalkeeper John McCarthy, the MVP of the MLS Cup final in November, the Union have the ability to disrupt even the most fluid of attacks.

Though not as stingy so far this season as they were in their record-setting 2022 season, the Union defense will be especially important to limit LAFC’s attack. Away goals loom large in this competition as both the Allianza and Atlas fixtures showed. The Union recorded clean sheets at home in both.

“We do want to score goals but at the same time we want to keep a shutout, we need to get a shutout,” Bedoya said.

Curtin has a full squad to work with and both teams are off from league play this weekend. The Union are coming off a 4-2 win over Toronto FC at home and LAFC off a 1-1 draw at Nashville.

The match is scheduled for 9 p.m. and will be broadcast live on FS1.


Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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