CHESTER, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union did not achieve three points Saturday night, but they still left an impression.
Jim Curtin’s side tied league-leading Los Angeles FC 1-1 in front of the third-largest crowd at Talen Energy Stadium.
Kacper Przybylko put the Union on the board early in the first half, while LAFC’s Carlos Vela equalized right before halftime. Despite a handful of chances on both ends, neither side could break free from the deadlock in the second half.
“LAFC is in discussion for one of the best teams our league has ever had,” Curtin said. “We went toe-to-toe with them.
“The speed of the game was as quick as I’ve seen, and I’ve been around this thing for 20 years now as an average player and now as a coach. I thought they rose to the occasion, could have stole the game at the end. Overall, I think a 1-1 result is fair.”
Przybylko, the Union’s top scorer, headed home his 14th goal of the season in the third minute. He latched on to a cross from Fafa Picault after the winger was spurred forward down the right wing by Alejandro Bedoya.
“I got a great ball from Fafa,” Przybylko said. “First, it was important for me to just get the ball because I thought it was going to be too high. I was happy that I hit it so well and it went it.”
Bob Bradley’s Los Angeles side created a few spells from pressure in and around the penalty area, but for most of the first period, the Union held their own. Kai Wagner was the home side’s top defender during that stretch by limiting Vela’s chances.
“I thought Kai was incredible on the night in terms of forward defending, being physical with (Vela) at the right moments, not going in when he cuts the ball,” Curtin said. “When he gets you in the box, you’re always holding your breath because he can draw penalties just because he is so deceptive in there. Kai showed that he a top left back in the league. For my money, the top left back.”
Vela moved over to the left side in an attempt to create more opportunities, and he did just that in the 35th minute, when he helped spread the ball around in a move that resulted in Eduard Atuesta blasting a shot that was turned away by Philly keeper Andre Blake.
Blake was not as successful in keeping LAFC out in the 44th minute, when a rebound off a Mark-Anthony Kaye chip landed at Vela’s boot. The Golden Boot leader finished amid a mess near the left post to level the contest.
The move was made possible by a frantic clearance by the Union a minute before. Blake let the ball spill out on a routine save, and the Union rushed to get the ball out of their own end. The attempt was unsuccessful and it resulted in Kaye’s shot off the bar.
In the second half, the Union’s most dangerous chances came through second-half substitutes Sergio Santos and Ilsinho.
In his brief stint, Santos won a few individual battles with his pace to challenge the LAFC defense, but he was unable to put one in the back of the net.
The Union end the weekend five points behind New York City FC in the race for the No. 1 seed. They received some help in the chase for No. 2, with Atlanta United losing to Columbus 3-1 in an earlier game Saturday.
“It’s great to see we are on par with LAFC,” Przybylko said.”I know what I said before the game. It’s not that I didn’t respect them. I respect every team in this league. It’s nice to see that after this great test we are on the same level as them. It’s important to continue like this and stay as high as we can to have a great position for the playoffs.”