Why are we failing in the final 10?
The Los Angeles Football Club has a problem. A huge problem. In games that we should win, they collapse into a heap and allow the other team to split a point or take the three points outright. We as fans experienced it at the beginning of the season, and then again twice in the month of July. With the searing pain of our last tie, a game in which we played our Southern California rivals and LAFC was winning by 2 goals to nil going into the 80th minute, I decided it was time to rewatch the Houston and Carson collapse to see if there was a common thread between the two. I started each game in the 80th minute and kept a note of our time of possession and key moments. It wasn’t fun to watch, but I think it’s important to try and figure out why we keep on failing in the final moments of games.
First, let’s start off with the game on July 3nd when LAFC was playing in Houston. One of the first things that I noticed starting the game in the 80th minute was how deep LAFC was playing in the defensive third of the pitch. Adama Diomande is already playing deep in the area, trying to be a defender, and breaking news, it doesn’t work really well. Dio, being an attacker, misses easy tackles and takes way too many semi-tackles that he completely misses on. As Houston keeps on stretching into the final minutes of the game, LAFC’s backline stays back towards Tyler Miller, allowing for Houston to take up camp in the 16-yard box. Even when we get the ball forward, Dio is so tired, he can’t make a run towards the ball. Houston just keeps on chipping at the Black and Gold until finally they have their breakthrough. Even after Houston scores their first goal, LAFC still comes out tired and stagnant. Of course, Houston scores the equalizer, and only because Jordan Harvey moves off his marker and allows the Houston defender, Philippe Senderos, an open shot at goal from the far post off a corner. We were three minutes away from taking first place in the West division, but we had to stay in second because we couldn’t find our way to stay organized at the back.
One of the most insane statistics that came from this game was the time of possession in the final 16 total minutes (10 minutes of regular and 6 minutes of added time). LAFC had 3 minutes of possession in the final 16 minutes of the game. Yeah, that’s not a typo. That’s only 18.75% of possession in the final 16 minutes of playing time. For a team that relies on holding onto the ball and creating chances through passing and moving the ball forward, it’s amazing to me that LA only had 3 minutes of possession. We also had about 20 seconds in the attacking third, as a majority of the possession came in the defensive and middle third of the pitch.
If the end of the Houston game was a frustrating moment, then the end to the second El Tráfico was a heartbreaking moment. Again. Like in March, we had a 2-goal lead and were in control of the game. At least this time, the Galaxy couldn’t bring on Ibrahimović in order to create a spark. I started watching again right at the 80th minute and right away it was easy to see how Carson was going to make us pay. They started to control the ball and made us spread wide in order to cover all their players in the final third. They didn’t put everyone in the box, so it kept LAFC honest and made them cover more on the outer parts of the pitch. LAFC tried to keep calm, even after the Galaxy scored their first goal. We actually held onto possession and moved the ball around the middle of the field. Then Andre Horta had a moment of madness and gifted them a goal. I so wish Horta would have seen the open LAFC player in the middle of the field instead of panicking and passing the ball backwards. I’ve noticed over the course of the season that when LAFC players have a moment of panic because they don’t see anything, they automatically pass backwards towards Ciman or Miller in order to reset the team. Other teams are starting to pick up on that. The Galaxy read it, because like any professional sports team, they watch film of their opponents, which is why they intercepted the pass and slotted it past Miller. LAFC did better in El Tráfico in keep possession in the final 15 minutes of the game, compared to the Houston game, but it was lower than what we are used to. 43% possession in the final 15 minutes, but down from the 55% we enjoyed during early part of the game.
In the end, there was only main common thing that happened between the two collapse in July. In both games, the backline never moved forward when the ball was cleared. They kept camped out in the box, allowing both Houston and Carson to move freely in their attacking thirds. If the defense keeps moving fluidly, there is no way a team is going to be able to become set and find easy ways to shoot at goal. The defense is fast enough to get back in case of a great run, but they can’t allow free open space in front of goal.
July was a pretty disappointing month for the Los Angeles Football Club. They only won 2 games (one league game and one US Open Cup game), tied three games (two of which they were winning by two goals) and got absolutely smoked in another (thanks Minnesota). Yet, not all is lost. We are sitting in second place and have a showdown next week with Houston again to head to the final of the US Open Cup. Hopefully the team takes the All-Star week to reset and get their minds ready for the intense push for the playoffs. We can only hope that the mental aspect gets stronger, or we might be talking about this issue all offseason.
YOU CAN FOLLOW ANDREW ON TWITTER AT @APDORAN. FEEL FREE TO SEND COMMENTS, SUGGESTIONS, OR IDEAS TO HIM!