Necessary Rotations Result in Lack of Chemistry
In a week to forget, LAFC lost on the road to New York Red Bulls and were eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup in the semifinals stage in Houston. Their last game of the week was at Banc of California Stadium versus Kansas City in front of their fans with an undefeated home record on the line. This was the game for the team to reset, to regain confidence and to rest some legs. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned for the Black and Gold.
LAFC’s undefeated streak at home came to an end on Saturday night when a very good Kansas City team spoiled the party by winning 2-0. LAFC lost a home match for the first time in franchise history in a streak that lasted 13 games across all competitions. Over the last couple of weeks, players had traveled long flights across the country and carried a baggage of games with them. Bob Bradley used this game as an opportunity to rest some of his men and give the reserve players some minutes, a decision that would turn out to be costly.
Head coach Bob Bradley sent out an experimental starting line-up filled with young talent but lacked experience and chemistry together. Luis “Buba” Lopez made his MLS debut in goal, Andre Horta and Danilo Silva got their first MLS starts and Christian Ramirez entered in the second half for his LAFC debut. It is already difficult as it is for an expansion team to build chemistry in its inaugural season and when you are obliged to make rotations in the squad due to injuries or rest, it makes it that much harder.
In the first half, LAFC did not play well. There is a reason why some players are starters and some are on the bench. This was made very clear after guys that do not usually see minutes were not lacking in effort but were not always make the right decision. The lack of chemistry was evident as there were large gaps between the midfield and attack when LAFC had the ball. Andre Horta was the man called upon to play the “Vela” role but he was practically invisible in the first 45 minutes.
Over the last few weeks, LAFC players have been inconsistent in their performances. Diego Rossi was coming off an excellent week individually with 4 goals in two games. With over 200 minutes played in the past two matches, it was clear that Rossi was missing that extra gear. In the 15th minute, LAFC was trying to play out of the back and used Rossi as an outlet, which pass got intercepted and led to a breakaway for Kansas City. Defenders and midfielders were caught out of position and just like that, LAFC were down 1-0. The goal allowed KC to control the tempo of the game into halftime with the one-goal lead.
In the 60th minute, Bradley had seen enough and brought on two regular starters, Latif Blessing and Carlos Vela. The latter got the crowd on their feet once entering the game and received a loud standing ovation. It seemed that this was the flame that LAFC needed to turn this game around. Five minutes later, the flame was hosed down by Kansas City after converting a controversial penalty kick to give them a 2-0 lead. With 20 minutes left in the game, things were not looking good LAFC. Bradley then brought on hometown boy Christian Ramirez, hoping that he would be the spark to reverse the adverse result.
LAFC looked better with Ramirez, Blessing, Horta and Vela in attack as they all combined to create a few goal scoring chances to the extent where Horta and Ramirez had their shots denied by the post. Vela became the channel that all the balls were going through from midfield to attack and closed the large gaps that were apparent in the first half. The chemistry with the substitutes improved but at the end, it was not enough.
Banc of California Stadium had been witness to LAFC’s first home loss of the season. In a night where the energy, support and atmosphere in the stands were electrifying, the players were not able to return the favor and give their fans a win. It was a weird feeling for the supporters and one that they do not want to get used to, especially at home.
In summary, it was good to see Buba Lopez get his opportunity at goal but based on first impressions, he had an average performance. Danilo Silva was solid in defense with simple, precise passing and strong tackling. Andre Horta displayed glimpses of his talent in the second half and is getting better with more minutes on the field. As for Ramirez, he had two goal scoring chances where luck was not on his side but the movement and touches were there.
With eleven games remaining in the regular season (six at home), LAFC are still in control of their own destiny. Five of the next six matches will be played in Southern California (4 in Los Angeles, 1 in Carson), meaning long flights and jet lag will not be an excuse. LAFC are currently tied for 4th place in the Western Conference and remain in contention for a playoff spot in addition to only being 6 points away from 1st place.
LAFC need to remain positive and not panic in difficult times like these. They need to build and learn from these experiences in every game and use it in their favor for the next, which is Wednesday versus Real Salt Lake. A win at home will not only boost them back up to 2nd place in the conference, but it will inject a boost of confidence in the team that has been much needed for the last few weeks.
Yes, LAFC are winless in their last five games. Yes, LAFC are not playing good football. Yes, LAFC are not undefeated at home any more. However, LAFC are still in control of their own destiny and do not depend on anyone to qualify for the playoffs but themselves. I believe in this club because I know what they are capable of when the chemistry is right and the confidence is there. All they need is one win, one good performance and the pieces will fall back into place.
August 12, 2018
Follow me on Twitter @lafcionado to talk soccer, ask questions or send comments. Thank you for reading and Stay Golden!