3252 breakdown - I'm sorry, what happened?!
By: Andrew Doran
LAFC spent a beautiful Saturday evening at the Banc of California giving every supporter anxiety. After being the dominant team for 90 minutes, LAFC was still level with Real Salt Lake. All the supporters in the stadium were willing on the team to avenge the loss to RSL in last season’s playoff. And when all hope seemed lost and the team about to drop two points at home, Walker Zimmerman hit an amazing strike, allowing LAFC to win, again, in dramatic fashion. The game was a whirlwind, so let’s break it down in 3252 style.
3 things that went well:
LAFC spent a vast majority of the game with possession and in the final attacking third of the field. Andre Horta, making his season debut, was in the middle field with Eduard Atuesta and Latif Blessing. These three did a really good job at dictating the play and finding the space when needed. Horta didn’t touch the ball a lot at the beginning of the game, but he was constantly running into space, bringing at least two Real Salt Lake players with him at all times. When Horta did get the ball, he did a good job at finding the next pass, especially if it was across the pitch. LAFC ended up with 67.5% possession, a new season-high.
As LAFC was attacking in the second half, they had plenty of chances to put the ball into the net. Many of them came off of corner kicks, something the team struggled with during the course of last season. Walker Zimmerman did a really good to make himself big during the corners, with one just going over the bar. LAFC had 11 total corners, which shows that they were always pressing in the final third. The team will surely get a goal off a corner sooner rather than later.
Right at the beginning of the game, Real Salt Lake were trying really hard to bait LAFC into playing their game of fouling all the time, maybe hoping that someone would lose their cool and make a stupid decision. Luckily for LA, they kept their heads and wits about them and didn’t play into it. The leaders on the field, Carlos Vela and Zimmerman did a really good job of pulling people away when words were being exchanged. Even though LAFC had two yellow cards in the first 25 minutes of the game, they didn’t have a single one after that.
2 things that need to be worked on:
Can the Los Angeles Football Club please stop giving up the first goal of the game? For the third time in four matches, LA has allowed the opposition to score first. While the team has responded well each of those times, it makes it hard to always come back from a goal down. The defense has been pretty solid during the course of the year, but to almost always give up the first goal has to stop.
LAFC had plenty of build-up plays during the course of the two halves, but they kept on missing the key part of build-up play. At some point, you have to shoot the ball towards the goal. There were a few times in the second half that LA had the ball on the edge of the box, but would just try and find that next perfect pass. With the number of quality attackers the team has, it’s almost mind-boggling that they are not taking easy shots on goal. While RSL was playing really tight, LA still needs to find opportunities to get more shots on goal.
5 key moments of the game:
The Penalty kick, and goal scored for Real Salt Lake in the 35 minute. Last week, Blessing was on the receiving end of a foul in the box that allowed Vela to score from the spot. This week though, Blessing committed the foul on Sebastian Saucedo. After a lengthy delay to see it was a foul, Damir Kreilach was able to slot the ball away after sending Tyler Miller the wrong way.
For the second week in a row, and for the third time in four games, LAFC went down a goal but found a way to equalize within five minutes of going down. After some patient build-up play, LAFC was finally able to go through the middle of the field and get a good chance on goal. Vela found Blessing streaking down the middle and Blessing tried to lay it off to Adama Diomande. It didn’t get to Diomande, but went off Donny Toia and right to Diego Rossi running behind the play. Rossi powered the shot home right in front of the North End, leveling the score between the two sides.
In the second half, LAFC was trying really hard to find the goal that would put them ahead. With a lot of good pressure, they kept on getting chances to put the ball on frame. One of the best chances came to Horta who was stalking the top of the box. He got the ball, but leaned back too far and blazed the shot well over the bar. While Horta had a really good game, it was unfortunate to see that shot miss by a lot. It felt like that was going to be LAFC’s last big chance in the game.
For the third home game in-a-row, the visitors at the Banc didn’t finish the game with 11 players on the field. In the 84th minute, Justin Portillo from RSL, who was only on the field for a total of nine minutes, tried to stop Rossi from creating a fast break opportunity. What looked like it was going to be a yellow card for stopping a break ended up being a straight red card to the delight of the supporters in the stadium. Salt Lake were going to have to navigate the rest of the game, about 10 minutes, with only 10 on the field.
When all seemed lost and LAFC just throwing every ball into the box, trying to find something, anything, to get a winner, they found it from the most unlikely source, Zimmerman. Zimmerman, number 25, got the ball 25 yards out from goal and hit the ball sweetly. While he admitted in the postgame press conference that it took a slight deflection, the ball screamed into the back of the net. Nick Rimando, who had a good game for RSL, couldn’t do anything about it as the ball found the net. LAFC once again found a goal in the dying embers of the game. The three points were secure.
2-star players of the match:
There was one player on the field that kept on getting my attention that that was #20, Eduard Atuesta. In his second year with LAFC, Atuesta has made unbelievable strides to finding himself in the starting XI every week. In this game, he positioned himself as the back midfielder as kept on finding the perfect ball through the RSL midfielders. RSL essentially parked the bus at the Banc of California Stadium, but Atuesta kept on finding players open. Pretty impressed by 21-year old.
In the short history of LAFC, there have been a couple of iconic moments from players you would never expect scoring goals. Laurent Ciman scoring the winner at the home opener is one of them. Danilo Silva scoring in the playoff loss was another. Now, we can add another defender on that list, Walker Zimmerman. Outside of the winner he scored, he and Eddie Segura played amazing in the middle of the field. Zimmerman has learned how to use his body to move the ball away from potentially difficult situations and how to control play when it requires. He talked in his postgame press conference that he has taken steps in the last year on growing on becoming better and how training has really helped out with that. Zimmerman is starting to make an argument that he is the best defender in MLS this season. And a winner is never a bad prize.
LAFC had a lot of great moments in this game but also had some tough ones. The season is still young though and this team will continue on getting better. With two games on the road coming up, against San Jose and D.C. United, the character of this team is going to be tested. LAFC is still the first team in MLS this season to hit 10 points and it’s the best start in the young-franchises history.
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