Lack of Confidence, Lack of Wins

Lack of confidence goes a long way in a soccer player, yet alone in a soccer team. LAFC lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls on a Sunday night where they also lost their 2nd place standing in the Western Conference. With only one victory in the past five league games, LAFC have dropped to 4th place in the West but somehow remain only six points away from 1st place. In a match where LAFC had more ball possession than New York, we all know that in soccer it’s not having the ball that makes you win games; it’s what you do with it.

Benny Feilhaber, a typically trust-worthy box-to-box midfielder that holds the ball well and recovers balls defensively, had his worst game of the season. I counted at least 10 possessions that were lost due to a bad pass or touch by the 33-year old veteran. Seconds after his tenth mistake, head coach Bob Bradley had seen enough and replaced him with Eduard Atuesta, who did a decent job in the 30 minutes he was on the pitch. Some say that Feilhaber was subbed off to rest him for the U.S. Open Cup game on Wednesday but I don’t buy it.

LAFC’s defense is one that is accustomed to playing out of the back with short, accurate passing. Laurent Ciman insisted on playing long balls in the air to our 5’5 wingers instead of looking for an outlet out wide or in the midfield.  In his defense, the outlet was missing. Mark-Anthony-Kaye had been a physical yet technical presence in the midfield for LAFC. A mixture of him missing for the rest of the season and the way New York presses high in offense, resulted in disaster for the Black and Gold. Jordan Harvey was another player in defense that did not have a great game. Although responding when being called upon for his defensive skills, his passing out of the back was terrible as almost every pass he made was intercepted.

In soccer, the forward lives off scoring goals and when not many opportunities are being made for him, he must score the ones that are. LAFC forward AdamaDiomande did not have many chances to score in this game, not to say just one. Carlos Velahad back-heeled a pass to an overlapping Steven Beitashour, who then crossed the ball into the box perfectly to Dio. The ball surpassed the opposing defender and all Dio had to do was bring it down with his chest and tap it in for the opening goal. Instead, he headed the ball over the net in an uncomfortable position in a moment where a goal could’ve changed the tempo of the game.Unfortunately for Diomande, he was subbed off in the 60thminute due to a left hamstring injury, putting his availability for the U.S. Open Cup match vs Houston in doubt.

If your goalkeeper is showing a lack of confidence, trust me, it will rub off on the rest of the team. Tyler Miller had been coming off great performances in the last few games with game-saving saves to silence his critics. However, Miller displayed inconsistency once again under the three-posts. First, he is shown a yellow card for unnecessary time wasting in the 38thminute when the score is 0-0! He spent 30 seconds trying to decide where to punt the ball off a goal kick! Why?! Just kick it! Just a few minutes later, Miller let a cross slip out of his gloves into the feet of midfielder Daniel Royer, who kicked it in while on the floor. Miller’s lack of confidence when it comes to distributing the ball to his team mates has caused turnovers and a bad reputation. I would not be surprised if Honduras international Luis “Buba” Lopez gets the nod from Bradley in upcoming games.

In the first goal for New York, there was no communication between the backline and the midfield. MLS assist leader Kakuhas the ball at the top of the box, which sucks in  Harvey to mark him due to Feilhaber’s lack of positioning, leaving the left flank wide open for New York’s right back. Kaku chips it over to Murillo who then crosses it first time before Miller’s blunder. Whether it be first or second half, LAFC seem to just not be able close out halves as this goal was scored five minutes before the break.

In midst of all the darkness, there was a bright light in this game. 20 year-old Diego Rossi was by far the most active player for LAFC with dazzling runs down the line, a shot off the post and recovering the ball in his own team’s half. 15 minutes after New York had taken the lead; Rossi dropped to his own half and recovered the ball. He then dribbled for 40 yards and laid it off smartly to the open player in Lee Nguyen. The ball was then given to Vela, who with his vision picked out the cutting Rossi only for the Uruguayan to finish for his 7th goal and Vela’s 6thassist of the season.

With 10 minutes left in the match, it happened again. New York Red Bulls had a goal kick and the keeper played it short to a team mate. With no pressure from the LAFC forwards or midfield, a pass has lobbed over the sleeping defense to forward Bradley Wright-Phillips. While Ciman and Harvey were raising their hands in complaints for an offside call, New York fans were raising theirs in celebration after Royer had scored his brace. LAFC had mentally collapsed once again in the final minutes of the game and dropped points for the second consecutive match.

LAFC had at least two more clear chances in Carlos Vela and Latif Blessing when the game was tied. However, both showed hesitation, poor decision making and lack of confidence in their efforts. With the U.S. Open Cup semifinals coming up on Wednesday versus Houston Dynamo on the road, LAFC will need to regain all the confidence they have lost over the past few games. A win in Houston will not only mean a historic trip to the final, but it will inject a boost of morale and energy into a club that needs it more than ever with a heavy schedule in August.

-Benjamin Virgen

August 5, 2018

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Jerry JimenezComment