​Not Enough to Put Out The Fire: LAFC Lose 3-1 in Chicago

In order to clinch a playoff spot in MLS, it is not good enough to just think about it. Over the past few weeks, there has been plenty of talk around LAFC and their possibilities of clinching a postseason berth before actually doing so. Optimism is good, but too much of it can blind you from reality and before you know it, it will be too late to achieve your goal.

Over this past weekend, LAFC suffered their eight loss of the season in a 3-1 defeat to Chicago Fire, a team that is second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and completely eliminated from playoff contention. On paper, that does not look good for a team like LAFC, who is fighting for the top spot in the Western Conference. If LAFC is not capable of taking care of business against a team like Chicago, what possibilities do we give them when they face much better teams in a potential playoff battle versus Sporting KC or FC Dallas?

LAFC did not play all that bad this game. It was a combination of different factors that prevented the team from getting a positive result. Chicago did not allow LAFC to connect meaningful passing and build a flow to their game. The Firecommitted a whopping 23 fouls against our players (LAFC with only 9) and were penalized with 5 yellow cards (LAFC with zero). This has been a tactic used by several teams around the league along with terrible officiating to contain LAFC and their offense. It is very difficult and frustrating to get any kind of rhythm going in a match where the opposing team is using tactical fouls as their primary defense mechanism to beat you.

As in most games, LAFC had more possession of the ball in this match with 65% to only 35% for Chicago. However, most of that possession either came in LAFC’s own half or in areas of no real danger. Proficiency was the determining factor in this match. With the little possession that they had, Chicago had 4 shots on target but scored 3 goals (75% proficiency). On the other hand, LAFC had 6 shots on target but only managed to score one goal (15% proficiency). In soccer, it is not about who has the ball the most time, it’s about who does more with it.

For the first fifteen minutes of the game, LAFC actually played very well and even had an opportunity to take the lead. Carlos Vela, by far the best LAFC player on the field, dribbled through two defenders in the center of the field, played a though ball to Diego Rossi just outside the 18’ and the Uruguayan’s shot was blocked by the goalkeeper. Other than a Benny Feilhaber shot from outside the box and an AdamaDiomande missed shot from inside the box, LAFC appeared lack of ideas for the remainder of the half.

In the 20th minute, Chicago midfielder DjordjeMihailovicscored a beautiful volley off a cross from the left side while LAFC defenders were ball watching and not communicating after a second-chance ball was not recovered. Ten minutes later, Steven Beitashour commits an unnecessary foul with two fellow teammate’s right beside him inside the box that awards Chicago a penalty kick. It was a rookie mistake by the 31-year old veteran that cost LAFC to be down 2-0 at halftime.

With Vela playing extremely well by creating chances for his team and even coming back to play defense, it was unfortunate that LAFC wasted his inspiring performance with below average performances from other players to say the least. Diomande was unable to connect with his teammates, turned the ball over a few times and just did not seem like the Dio we know. In his defense, he is coming off an injury but if the medical/coaching staff clears him to play, we expect him to perform at his best. Million-dollar man Christian Ramirez is waiting for his turn and just might get more minutes with Dio’s lack of good form.

Midflieders Andre Horta, Benny Feilhaber and Eduard Atuestaalso had poor displays of bad passing and were unable to connect with the front three. Atuesta was even subbed out at halftime for Lee Nguyen, who was not able to do much either. The midfield turned the ball over too many times and it allowed Chicago to build just enough confidence to keep adding to their lead.

In the 65th minute, Zimmerman won a header in his own half and it fell to the feet of a Chicago player at midfield. With Harvey out of position, Zimmerman committed and it left Jakovic all by himself in the back. Jakovic failed to make a tackle and Chicago was off to the races in the counter. Mihailovic dribbled the ball from midfield all the way to the top of the box when he dished it to Katai, who had just come in as a sub one minute earlier. Kataihit the ball first time and beat Tyler Miller between the legs for the 3-0 lead.

With twenty minutes remaining in the game, Bradley finally made some changes to try and improve the chemistry of the team. Ramirez in for Diomande and Josh Perez was making his LAFC debut for Horta. Although he did not make much of an impact on the game, it was good to see Perez take the field for the first time and get his feet wet.

A few minutes after the substitutions, LAFC finally broke through the fortress that German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger had build in defense all game and almost seeming unsurpassable. Rossi played the ball to Nguyen who then returned the pass to Rossi inside the box. The bouncing ball fell to Rossi’s left foot and hit it perfectly to the second post over the goalkeeper for his 10th of the season. Golazo.

LAFC would continue to insist in attack with shots from Rossi, Nguyen and Feilhaber but the damage had been done and it was too late to put out the fire, pun intended. It was the first time in eight games that LAFC had allowed more than two goals in one match.

Regardless of the result, LAFC remain in 3rd place of the Western Conference and are only four points behind 1st place, leaving them in good position for a playoff spot. The good news for LAFC is that their next opponent is Colorado Rapids. Why is that good news? Because the Rapids are currently on a 6-game losing streak and have conceded 19 goals in the process. In addition, they have only scored 1 goal in that six-game stretch. It is a perfect opportunity for LAFC to improve their goal differential and to get three points that will put them in position to clinch a playoff spot at home over the next two games after that. Let’s turn the page, as better days are ahead for the Black & Gold.

-Benjamin Virgen

October 2, 2018

Follow me on Twitter @lafcbenjamin to talk soccer, ask questions or send comments. Thank you for reading and Stay Golden!

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