Déjàvu Wake-Up Call!
There is no other way to describe it but as a true wake-up call.
We can all say it is only preseason and we would all be right. But the fact of the matter is, LAFC were outplayed from start to finish by their opponent. That is not something you hear every day, especially when that opponent is the San Jose Earthquakes, who finished in last place of the Western Conference in 2018. With new head coach Matias Almeyda, things might play out a little differently this season.
Similar to the game vs Atlanta last week, LAFC controlled possession of the ball early with Mark-Anthony Kaye starting alongside Lee Nguyen and 20 year-old draftee Peter-Lee Vassellin the midfield. Kaye was an absolute stud in that center-defensive mid role for the Black & Gold during the first half. He was very confident with the ball at his feet, delivered great passes to his teammates and played excellent defense. His ability to move into open space and receive the ball in good position was amazing to watch but unfortunately not enough to contain San Jose.
In the 14th minute, Magnus Erikkson received the ball in the midfield and took a shot from about 25 yards out. The strike was deflected by Walker Zimmerman and it sent Tyler Miller the wrong way after a great effort from the goalkeeper to try and keep it from going in. 1-0 San Jose.
San Jose would extend their lead just 15 minutes later through veteran Chris Wondolowski. Cristian Espinoza received the ball on the right side corner and crossed in a beautiful ball to the incoming run of Wondolowski, who finished with a volley inside the 6-yard box past Miller. 2-0 San Jose.
At this point in the match, I was getting feelings of dejavu. The script was similar to what had happened a week earlier with Atlanta where LAFC started off strong but deserted their possession-based football with their opponents taking possession away. On paper, this game was a friendly, but things got a bit chippy after the first goal. Players from both sides were making hard tackles that led to scuffles but it never got out of hand. San Jose did not let go of the ball for a good portion of the first half, especially in between their goals. LAFC tried to respond towards the end of the half to no avail.
However, it was not all bad for LAFC as there were some positives and interesting things I observed. For example, when LAFC attacked from the left side, Steven Beitashour would slide into the midfield next to Kaye and drag the left mid for San Jose with him. I assume this was done so Vela can receive the ball with more space and avoiding the double team. The plan worked to a certain extent as Vela did get a bit more room to work with. Another positive I would take from the first half is the CB partnership of Zimmerman and Segura. Both defenders had themselves a great game with good play out of the back, precise long balls and good communication between them.
2-0 at the half.
Just like the game vs Atlanta, LAFC came out strong in the second half. With substitutes Latif Blessing and Javi Perez, the Black & Gold looked to replicate what they had done against the defending champs. Unfortunately, there was no comeback this time around.
In attempt to get him back into rhythm with minutes on the field, Bob Bradley brought on Danilo Silva at right back for Beitashour. It was apparent that Silva was still a step behind the rest of his team in terms of fitness as he was beaten off the dribble a few times way too easily.
For the second consecutive game, Vela was getting fouled a ridiculous amount of times. The captain needs to release the ball quicker or else he is not going to last through the season at this rate. The passing today was far from crisp as Bradley looked down to the ground in disgust after every turnover.
In the 85th minute, with LAFC playing a high line and having its players mostly forward, San Jose never took their foot off the gas pedal and finished the job. Wondolowski beat the offside trap running in from the right side of the field. The forward then crossed it in to the incoming run from Vako, who tapped it in past recently acquired and debutant Pablo Sisniega. 3-0 San Jose.
The positives from the second half were minimal. Vela had a free kick from 20 yards out that came inches from going in, Nguyen had a nice shot that was spectacularly saved by Vega and Perez looked composed with good play in the midfield. Ramirez also had a clear scoring chance inside the box after a great cross from Harvey but blew his shot over the goal.
This may sound harsh but LAFC were fortunate enough to not lose by more goals. San Jose hit the post twice in a match that could have ended 5-0. San Jose played with more intensity and proved that they were the team that wanted it more. Almeydasuccessfully transmitted to his players what he wants from them on the field.
It is safe to say it was a disappointing performance from LAFC. The team lacked chemistry and did not have the response to overcome the two-goal deficit like they did vs Atlanta. We did see more players get a full 90 minutes in Zimmerman, Nguyen and Vassell. The latter did not have his best performance as he seemed uncharacteristically nervous and out of sync with the rest of the team. Andre Horta did not play during this match as neither did Mohammed El-Munir and Eduard Atuesta (in the process of obtaining his green card). AdamaDiomande picked up an injury in the first half that forced him to exit but we do not know the extent of the injury. It is better to experience these downfalls now in the preseason as opposed to later when points come into play.
With only two weeks remaining until the start of the regular season, LAFC will host Vancouver next Saturday at Banc of California Stadium in their final preseason tune-up. Bob Bradley surely has things to work on in preparation for March 3rd, which is the main focus.
February 16, 2019
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