Superstar players, multiple championships, a mastermind as a head coach.
The LA Galaxy are MLS's equivalent to the New England Patriots. At least, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin seems to think so.
The Union are set to return from a bye week on Wednesday night when they host the Galaxy at Talen Energy Stadium (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The meeting will be the lone clash this regular season between the two clubs, and the Union know that they have a big task ahead of them.
"They’re a team that has had the big names and they have won [MLS Cups] and that’s something that gets recognition," said Curtin during his weekly conference call with the press. "They’re the gold standard of the league in recent years for sure -- the Patriots of MLS — and they have a way of winning."
Already MLS champions a record five times, the Galaxy look capable of possibly winning another this season. LA just dispatched the New England Revolution, 4-2, at home on Sunday to improve to 5-1-3 on the year. The Galaxy's record is impressive, but so too is their league-best goal differential after scoring 22 goals while conceding just 10.
"They put up big numbers on [teams] and their goal differential right now is head and shoulders above the rest of the league," said Curtin. "I believe they're a plus 12. They’re running away with that category. You don’t want to find yourself in an up-and-down game because they don’t need four, five chances like other teams in the league.
"They take one chance and they get their goals."
While the Galaxy are facing a short turnaround against a rested Union team and flying cross-country, Curtin does not see LA head coach Bruce Arena resting his top players. The Union boss said he expects the likes of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos, and Gyasi Zardes to play, and that Philadelphia have trained and prepared as if that were the case.
After all, Curtin knows that Arena can get the most out of his players even when faced with challenging situations.
"He’s the best coach that the US has had, right, so he knows what he’s doing," said Curtin. "He’s been through the wars. He has a way of motivating stars and he has a way of motivating underrated or under-appreciated players, so he pushes the right buttons.
"His way of doing it is getting his best 11 of the field regardless of people that want to talk about formation or style and different things like that. He gets his best guys on the field and motivates them to play.”
Curtin might have a lot of respect for Arena and the Galaxy, but is looking to make a statement to the rest of the league by defeating LA on Wednesday. The Union know it will be quite the challenge, but are eager to capitalize on the opportunity vs. a star-studded and in-form club.
"We want to see just how much we’ve raised the bar," said Curtin. "I think we’ve raised it a lot and the players believe that, too. The 90 minutes is your test to show the strides we’ve made. Everyone is anxiously awaiting this game. It’s a big match."