By Natallie Rocha

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (June 25, 2018) - LA Galaxy U-18/19 will head to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Championships for the second-straight year, as a strong 4-1 victory over the No. 3 overall seed Philadelphia Union boosted LA to the semifinals in Kansas City. After the first half ended in a 1-1 stalemate, the SoCal squad pulled ahead in the second half on the strength of a stellar finish from Aristotle Zarris in the 52nd and a clinical penalty kick from captain Alex Mendez in the 76th. Efrain Alvarez provided the exclamation point for the Galaxy with a 78th-minute rocket from the midfield.

From the opening whistle, the MLS match-up provided a physical battle that took a toll on both teams. In the 13th minute, the Galaxy picked up the momentum with a finesse shot from Ulysses Llanez. The Youth National Team player bolted down the left wing, touched it inside the defense and crushed it to the back post to pick up his third goal of the playoffs.

Philadelphia refused to go down without a fight, and tied up the game in the 26th minute. Iverson Brisma spotted the goalkeeper off his line lobbed it over him with a deft touch for the equalizer.

A fast and physical second half saw a battle for the go-ahead goal. In the 52nd minute, Zarris delivered the game-winning goal for his team with a strike down the center. Even as the Union defense crashed towards the goal, Zarris hit it with enough force that it slipped through to give LA a lead it would not relinquish.

Despite the Galaxy's lead, Philly attacked relentlessly and put the LA defense to the test. Galaxy 'keeper Eric Lopez made a stellar save in the 57th minute, while the entire back line shifted well to block multiple shots off of deflections.

A foul in the Union box gave Mendez the chance for a penalty kick and a potential insurance goal. The captain rose to the occasion, driving the ball to the right side of the net as the 'keeper dove left.

With a 3-1 lead, the Galaxy only needed to focus on game management, but the attack didn't let up. In the 78th minute, Alvarez put the nail in Philly's coffin with a hard hit from the right side of the midfield. He blasted the shot with the outside of his left foot and the ball sailed over the Philly defense for the Galaxy's final goal of the game.

LA advances to face off against the Vancouver Whitecaps in a Kansas City semifinal. In the other semi, New York City FC will battle the Columbus Crew for a spot in the final.