It’s prediction time!
LAFC and Philadelphia Union, the top-seeded teams in their respective conferences, have made MLS Cup and will collide Saturday at Banc of California Stadium (4 pm ET | FOX, Univision in US; TSN, TVA Sports in Canada) after topping their great seasons with wildly successful postseason runs.
We asked those who have followed closely since day one of the 2022 season to weigh in on a final that could be remembered as one of the most competitive MLS Cup matchups in history.
Who is going to win? What will be the deciding factor? Here is what the experts say:
LAFC at home are dominant and they are in great form. Their attack is lethal, the best player on the pitch is Carlos Vela, and the addition of winger Denis Bouanga has taken them over the top. They also have more depth than the visitors.
Home-field advantage in MLS Cups has been SUBSTANTIAL – you have to go all the way back to 2015 to find the last time the visitors showed up and won outright (Seattle in 2016 and NYCFC in 2021 walked away with their trophies after winning PK shootouts). That’s a tough precedent to pick against, but I went with the Union in my bracket at the start of the playoffs and I have to be a man of my word here.
1-0 #DOOP with Blake winning MVP.
LAFC are at home and you could say the disappointment in 2019 is stirring them on. The main reason for my pick is the adaptability they showed in the last two rounds. They don't have a style, per se. This is not the intricate possession team of the Bob Bradley era. They are more hybrid and they can bring whatever the game needs. LAFC are able to apply pressure on the ball consistently and rapidly go to goal with speed. They also have more depth on the bench.
Ultimately, I believe the game will be decided by defenses and the bench. Each defense is amongst the top of the league with Philly as No. 1 with 26 goals conceded and LAFC just behind as third with 38 goals against. Who can sustain focus and concentration the longest?
Another big factor is LAFC's potent threats on the bench. LAFC may have the advantage with the likes of Kwadwo Opoku, who brings speed and can score, as he did against Austin FC. Also, let's not forget Gareth Bale may have a word here. Those are assets Jim Curtin doesn't have in abundance, even though he can count on talent like Cory Burke.
Jesse Marsch told me this week that his brain says LAFC but his heart says the Union. I’m in the same headspace. I’d love to see Philly’s long-term project rewarded with the ultimate prize, but I can’t see LAFC being denied at home.
The No. 1 in the West vs. the No. 1 in the East in beautiful California this Saturday to crown a first-time champion. If you go purely by stats LAFC scored 66 goals and gave up 38, and Philadelphia Union scored 72 and gave up 26, so just on those stats alone, you would give Philadelphia the advantage.
On the other hand, you could say that LAFC have the advantage because they're playing at home with that spectacular fanbase. The one meeting they had this year ended in a 2-2 draw in LA. The difference could be in transition for both teams, but, like most finals, I think it's going to come down to one set piece. One mental break at the wrong time could cost you the game and an MLS Cup this weekend.
Two hugely contrasting cities and two hugely contrasting roster builds meet in MLS Cup. Home field has dominated these playoffs, but it feels like it’s the year of the Philadelphia Union.
Determining factor: Transition. The Union were uncharacteristically slow/unsharp for 60 minutes in attacking transition against NYCFC. LAFC are killers in transition themselves, so that’s where the game will be won or lost.
Anytime I get asked to make predictions regarding MLS I am immediately struck with anxiety. For this MLS Cup it will be the two No. 1 seeds duking it out for the hardware. So, predicting who will win is stressing me out even more than usual. But since I’ve been tasked with giving a resolute answer, I am predicting LAFC to be your 2022 MLS Cup champions.
Not much separates these two teams in terms of talent, but I believe there are a couple of X-factors at play here: Number one is momentum. A huge emotional win over the Galaxy in a playoff edition of El Trafico followed by an absolute thrashing of Austin FC has them feeling themselves. I witnessed both of these games in person and I’ve never seen a more motivated LAFC team.
X-factor number two is Banc of California Stadium. It’s just hard to imagine that Steve Cherundolo, the Southern California guy, would allow his team to squander the opportunity to win their first MLS Cup title in front of the 3252. LAFC supporters are some of the most passionate I’ve ever seen and the Banc was deafening last weekend. I have to believe it will be even more electric on Saturday. It will be close, and it will come down to the little things, but I’m giving the edge to LAFC. Dale Black & Gold, baby.
Can't turn my back on LAFC! It has been too many games to switch now.
Both teams have something to prove, but LAFC have been the most consistent this season. They’ve gone on the road and picked up huge points, which have allowed them to be in a position to host MLS Cup. Still, this also has the potential of becoming too big of an occasion for LAFC since they are hosting the Cup and we know the 3252 will not expect anything else but a win.
Philadelphia have been a well-balanced team from top to bottom. Their style of play is a team-first approach that is respected by both the players and coaches around the club. This is a true testament to their record and a big reason why they are here. You also have to consider the leadership provided by Alejandro Bedoya, a player who is easy to root for as he’s put A LOT of time into this game.
Overall let’s expect this to be the definition of the beautiful game… this is LA, but let’s see how sunny it really gets in Philadelphia.
I, for one, am stoked to miss this prediction entirely and become a central figure of the winning team’s social media strategy. Just remember to tag me. It’s @J_SamJones, and I’m happy to pass along Venmo details.
Anyway, it’s generally pretty dumb to pick against home-field advantage in MLS. But I am brave enough to be that special dummy. Neither of these teams has any weaknesses but my best-educated guess is that the Union are able to capitalize on a restart or a sucker-punch counter, take the lead first, and thrive off the fact that they have Andre Blake and LAFC does not have Andre Blake. Having Andre Blake helps a lot in Major League Soccer games.
The Union win their first MLS Cup, and everyone draws the wrong conclusions about LAFC adding good players in the summer. Bank on it. Or bank on me. Seriously, Venmo details are available.
LAFC and Philadelphia Union will have the chance to lift the MLS Cup for the first time on Saturday. LAFC were dominant for most of the regular season, but had to wait almost to the end to secure the Supporters' Shield.
Carlos Vela and Chicho Arango have that killer instinct that could be key in a final, but Philadelphia have the best goalkeeper in MLS with Andre Blake being decisive in their match against NYCFC. It’s going to be a close game and I see the home team winning 2-1.
Supporters' Shield winners LAFC finished the regular season sluggishly (nine points from a possible 27). The pace and intensity of El Trafico was absolutely perfect for bringing LAFC back up to speed, which was more evident vs. Austin in the Western Conference Final. Ilie Sánchez is the key man for LAFC to stop free-scoring Philly. His ability to thwart opposition attacks from his holding midfield position and to then quickly transition into attack has been an outstanding feature this season in the West.
Under Jim Curtin, Philadelphia Union have been a joy to watch at times this year in the East. It's amazing that three players (Dániel Gazdag, Julián Carranza, and Mikael Uhre) were into double figures for the regular season. They haven’t looked like the same team in the playoffs though, especially vs. Cincinnati. The last 25 minutes against NYCFC did show that you can never write them off at any stage. Gazdag is their key man with and without the ball.
My prediction? LAFC have momentum with them and I think they’ll outscore Philly. LAFC 3-2 Philadelphia Union.
This is the moment LAFC have been waiting for all of their short, yet successful, history. For Carlos Vela, the unmatched club legend, it may be the last chance to transcend beyond the regular season and lift an MLS Cup.
On the other side, Philly, oh Philly... how long have you waited to play for an MLS Cup? A ton of credit to Jim Curtin, who will look to close the curtain on a wonderful recent tenure with a title for the Union.
For me, there is a simple and clear decisive factor: HOME field. This is why LAFC will be crowned champions of Major League Soccer for the first time in their short, but again, successful history.
This isn't going to be an easy game for LAFC by any stretch of the imagination. The Philadelphia Union know exactly who they are, and they know exactly how to make their opponents miserable – and I do expect LAFC to be miserable for stretches of Saturday's game. But LAFC have much of the same defensive ability that the Union have, just with an extra twist of midfield and attacking quality. Maybe that won't matter this weekend. Maybe the Union will be compact to the point that their opponents can't play through them or effective enough at forcing turnovers that they break through LAFC in transition. None of that would surprise me.
Between being at home, though, and their ability to create chances in possession and not just in transition, LAFC have the edge.
This is a final. It all comes down to the little details. I expect a high-intensity game from what we’ve seen from Cherundolo’s and Curtin’s team, and it could be one of those matches that will be defined by a mistake or an act of genius.
I see more balance in Philadelphia: defense is outstanding, attack as well, but when it comes to these games I think momentum plays a big role. Both come off a hot streak, but as for individuality, Chicho Arango, I think will be the difference maker.