Union-Los Angeles FC Preview

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After a tougher-than-expected season-opening win, Los Angeles FC looks to continue its winning ways Sunday when it hosts the Philadelphia Union.

LAFC were tasked with welcoming one of the league's two expansion franchises - Inter Miami CF - to the MLS in last weekend's lid-lifter. The reigning Supporters' Shield winners were given a worthy challenge, but a superstar's touch made all the difference as 2019 Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela's goal on 44 minutes provided the margin of a 1-0 victory.

With LAFC also set for its first-leg CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tie versus Mexican side Cruz Azul midweek following this contest, it is likely coach Bob Bradley will continue rotating his squad to prevent fatigue. Versus Inter Miami, Kenneth Vermeer, José Cifuentes, Pancho Ginella, and Bryce Duke all made their MLS debuts.

Still, Bradley is focused on the task at hand and noted his team will be ready for Philadelphia's high-pressing style.

"Philadelphia Union is a team that really tries to press," Bradley noted to the club's official website. "They want to make the game go fast. They have sort of the Red Bulls' style pressing. Our ability to be smart, find the right ways to play quickly, find ways to play over the top of the press, those are things that become very important in matches against the Union."

Vela has picked up where he left off from last season when he set an MLS record with 34 goals. The one-time Mexico international, who had a brace in LAFC's second-leg win over Leon, has 27 goals in 36 matches across all competitions at Banc of California Stadium.

The striker also obtained his green card Wednesday, which means Los Angeles FC no longer has to use one of its international roster spots on Vela.

Philadelphia is on the road for the second straight weekend and still looking for its first goal after absorbing a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas on Feb. 29. The Union conceded both goals in the final 29 minutes via defensive breakdowns, with Zdenek Ondrasek's long-range strike just after the hour proving too much to overcome before conceding a second in stoppage time.

"It sucks to lose. We're all disappointed," Union talisman Alejandro Bedoya told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We should have got a result, but on to the next one."

One surprise in Philadelphia's first XI to open the season was midfielder Warren Creavelle, who had started just 17 matches combined the previous three seasons. The 29-year-old was a disruptive presence in central midfield as FC Dallas often took its attack wide in a bid to find more success.

That kind of effort will be needed in trying to contain Vela, who scored the equalizer in last year's 1-1 draw in Philadelphia in the lone meeting between the teams. He did not play in the only previous meeting in Los Angeles, a 4-1 romp by the Black-and-Gold in 2018 when Adama Diomande had a hat trick in a 30-minute span bridging the halves.

"It takes multiple players and a team together and that will be our objective as a team," Union coach Jim Curtin told the team's official website. "It won't be Carlos Vela versus Matt Real or whoever he's 1v1 against, it's versus the entire team and us doing a good job to first limit the amount of touches he gets on the ball but respecting he is the MVP of this league for a reason."