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2022 MLS Cup: Where to Watch, Preview, and Predictions

The 2022 MLS Cup Final might be the most anticipated matchup in history. It’s a matchup of titans. Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) brings the league’s best offense against the league’s best defense in the Philadelphia Union. The face-off features both conferences No. 1 overall seeds, the first time the top two teams in the East and West have met in the Final in 19 years.

The Philadelphia Union were the best team in the Eastern Conference all season long. For Philly, their journey to the MLS Cup has been a long and arduous one.  The team’s inaugural season was in 2010. They made the playoffs just once in their first six seasons, and have never made it to the Finals.

In 2018, the Union made it a point of emphasis to develop their academy and rely heavily on those players. The resulting impact turned the once beleaguered franchise around. They made the playoffs five of the next six years and won the Supporter’s Shield in 2020. They’ve finished no lower than third place in the Eastern Conference each of the last three seasons.

This season, Philadelphia dominated the regular season with their stellar defense and goalkeeping. Center back Jakob Glesnes was named the 2022 MLS Defender of the Year and Andre Blake was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for the third time in his career. He ranked second in goals prevented this season and had an MLS-high 15 clean sheets during the regular season.

[CSNPhily] Andre Blake is having a moment - but what does it mean for the Union?
Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake makes a save.

On the flip side, their opponent LAFC, is an offensive juggernaut. The Black and Gold have an attacking front trio of Carlos Vela, Christian “Chicho” Arango, and Denis Bouanga. Not to mention, they have six-time Welsh Player of the Year and former Premier League Player of the Year Gareth Bale as a super-sub off the bench.

LAFC hasn’t been around as long as the Union. Their inaugural season was in 2018, but they immediately made an impact. They reached the playoffs in their first season, and won the Supporter’s Shield in their sophomore campaign. A year later, they came within a second-half collapse away from claiming the CONCACAF Champions League crown. After missing the postseason in 2021, they retooled the roster, adding midfielder Ilie Sanchez and right back Ryan Hollingstead. During the summer transfer window, they added Bale and former Italian national team defender Giorgio Chiellini. This is also their first time in the MLS Cup.

Players from LAFC celebrate winning the Western Conference Championship 3-0 over Austin FC. (EE.UU.). EFE/Armando Arorizo

The MLS Cup comes down to the idiom of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. LAFC’s offense is the “unstoppable force” in this situation, and the Union’s defense is the immovable object. The game on Saturday will boil down to whether or not LAFC’s offense can break down Philadelphia’s defense. If not, Philadelphia has the offensive firepower to provide a counter attack and score on the Black and Gold’s susceptible defense. Philadelphia led the league in goals with 72 and had the league’s best goal differential during the regular season.

Despite both teams dominance on both sides of the ball, the x-factor in the MLS Cup will likely come down to LAFC’s home-field advantage at the Banc of California Stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Both LAFC and Philadelphia finished the season with identical point totals, but the tiebreaker went to LA by virtue of their regular season wins.

LAFC’s supporter’s group the 3252 is one of the best in the league and playing at the Banc for an opponent is like walking into a lion’s den. The partisan crowd, which is sure to be full of Hollywood celebrities, is likely the lift LAFC will need to hoist the cup at the end of the match. Either way, there will be a first-time champion in the MLS come Saturday night.

LAFC-Galaxy-3252-1-October-2019
LAFC’s Supporters the 3252 during a match against the LA Galaxy.

Prediction: 2-1 LAFC

How to Watch and Stream:

The MLS Cup will take place on Saturday, November 5 at 1:00 PM PT at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The game will air live on FOX, Univision, and TUDN.


Source: NBC Los Angeles

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