LAFC vs NYCFC: Preview
By Benjamin Virgen
March 15, 2019
It’s one thing to do it at home; it’s another to do it away from it.
LAFC will go on the road for the first time in the 2019 season when they travel 3000 miles to New York City for a St. Patrick’s Day showdown vs NYCFC. The game is set to be played at Yankee Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 12PM PT and will be televised on FS1.
(Soccer On A Baseball Field)
It’s been a while since the Black & Gold played a match outside of Banc of California Stadium. If you include the playoff match from last year and the preseason in 2019, LAFC have played 9 out of their last 10 games in Los Angeles. Sunday will mark the first match on the road since October 28, 2018 at Sporting KC. From being accustomed to playing in the perfect and smooth grass of the Banc to trying to pass the ball on a narrow and patchy baseball field will be a challenge in its own. However, the pitch conditions will not be used as an excuse as LAFC look to maintain the same football ideas and come back home with a positive result. After Wednesday’s training, head coach Bob Bradley spoke on the difficulties playing at Yankee Stadium could bring and how to overcome them: “It’s a weird field. It looks cockeyed, it’s small, there’s a few different kinds of grass, there’s a pitcher’s mound and there’s all these different factors so in those ways, it changes the game. However, the mentality for the team will be to go in and still try to find the right ways to connect, move the ball quickly and look forward on a field that’s that size. I don’t expect that the game is going to have a great flow so there’s the importance of just quick reactions both in attack and defense”. They keyword there is mentality. LAFC might not be able to display their crisp passing on the day but their attitude of possession-based, high intensity and attacking football should remain.
(Things To Look Out For)
The game on Sunday will only be the second meeting between the two clubs with NYCFC holding LAFC to a 2-2 draw at Banc of California Stadium last season. There was a player who made a big impact for NYCFC in that match that is no longer with the club: David Villa. The Spanish striker left an enormous gap in attack and the team has yet to find a replacement with the kind of presence the World Cup winner was able to contribute. In their first two games of 2019, NYCFC has only been able to score two goals and neither of them came from a forward as it was their midfielders who were able to get on the scoresheet. LAFC will have to be careful with the long shot from outside the box and the incoming runs from the midfielders behind the defenders into the box, two things they have feel comfortable doing to compensate for the lack of attacking options. If LAFC can close down on those shots by anticipating and pressing hard, they will be in good shape.
With Steven Beitashour ruled out for the game due to still recovering from concussion-like symptoms after a hit to the head last week vs Portland, all fingers point to Latif Blessing stepping in once again at right back to cover. With Shaft Brewer Jr. and Tristan Blackmon being loaned out to USL side Phoenix Rising, Bradley appears to reward Blessing with more playing time as a starter in defense after a great performance vs the Timbers. NYCFC new signing and Designated Player AlexandruMitrita will be roaming in the left flank and will be looking to outpace Blessing by taking him on one-on-one, something the Ghanaian does not have much experience doing defensively but will surely adapt to during the course of the game. For good or bad, this will be a crucial matchup in the development of the game.
LAFC are filled with confidence after two wins and will look to continue their perfect run led by their captain Carlos Vela, who is coming off a MVP-esque performance vs Portland. Los Angeles Football Club have been playing so well during their first two games that they even got some verbal praise from NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent: “I’m impressed with their performance, especially in the last two MLS games because they play really well. I like the way they play, especially when they have the ball. They have a clear idea when they play soccer.” Those are very flattering words from a manager who worked with the likes of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. If someone with that kind of European experience is complimenting your style of play, you are doing something right.
Although this will be an away match, the Black & Gold will be well represented in the stands. During this week’s podcast episode, former 3252 president Josef Zacher stated there is an estimated 200 supporters traveling to New York City for the match on Sunday. After training on Wednesday, Bob Bradley talked about what the 3252 means to the team, especially on away days: “We’ve got such a connection with our supporters. In a little over a year, we’ve had great away support. The effort that they make to come and make sure that when you’re in that visiting stadium you can look to a corner and know you’ve got people that are there with you every step. That is so important, and we appreciate the efforts that our away supporters make”.
If LAFC want to make the supporters really happy, they will have to win this match. In my opinion, the key to the match is mentality. The game is not going to be pretty, the flow of the game will constantly be interrupted due to the unorthodox condition of the pitch and LAFC will just have to be patient. The crisp passing might not be there but the attitude of high pressing, possession-based and attacking football will need to remain intact to come out victorious.
Follow me on Twitter @lafcbenjamin to talk LAFC, ask questions or send comments. Thank you for reading and Stay Golden!