LAFC vs FC Cincinnati: Preview
LAFC vs FC Cincinnati: Preview
By: Benjamin Virgen (4/12/2019)
LAFC is marching into April with confidence yet reluctant to claim top form.
After a successful two-game road trip, LAFC return to Banc of California Stadium tomorrow night where they will host league newcomers FC Cincinnati. This will mark a meeting between the two newest expansion teams in MLS but with Los Angeles Football Club as the heavy favorites. Not only is LAFC undefeated this season, they are on a three-game winning streak and will look to remain in 1st place of the Western Conference for the fourth consecutive week. The Orange & Blue currently rank in 5th place of the Eastern Conference and are on a two-game winless skid but know what it takes to come away with a positive result on the road (1-1 draw in Atlanta and 2-0 win in New England). Although the Black & Gold have everything in their favor to collect the three points, Cincinnati’s embrace of the underdog role could potentially play to their advantage.
Cincy And Their Game Plan
No MLS club this season has found the formula to come out of the Banc with a positive result. However, a couple teams have been minutes if not seconds away from a draw had it not been for late-game heroics by LAFC. FC Cincinnati have arrived in Los Angeles motivated to play against one of the best teams in the league but are also aware that if they want to achieve any kind of success versus the Black & Gold, they must remain focused for the entirety of the match (including stoppage time). There are a few players on the Cincinnati roster that have had favorable outcomes playing against LAFC at Banc of California Stadium in 2018: Roland Lamah and Victor Ulloa (1-1 draw with FC Dallas), Darren Matocks (1-1 draw with DC United plus a goal) and Kendall Waston (2-2 draw with Vancouver). With the addition of head coach Alan Koch’s game plan, the prior experience obtained could be beneficial for the rest of the team in tough stretches of the game. But what is the game plan?
Besides being mentally prepared and organized, FC Cincinnati will have to play football at some point during the match. With dynamic players like Roland Lamah and Allan Cruz, the Orange & Blue have speed in the midfield that can put LAFC on their heels if they decide to go forward with pace. Also, midfielder Kenny Saief can be very dangerous on the ball in open space and has the ability to pick out teammates on the run as he leads the team with two assists this season. Set pieces can be a threatening weapon for FC Cincinnati as defenders Kendall Watson and Nick Hagglund are very good in the air. However, in order for Cincy to even get those opportunities, they have to be aggressive offensively. This goes against the trend we have seen this season where FCC has no objection to giving the majority of possession to their opponents. The approach has worked in some games where FC Cincinnati has been effective with less possession by administering their moments correctly.
Koch will have to make a decision as to whether he wants his team to focus on their strengths and continue with the “less is more” attitude or take the high-risk, high reward approach. Whichever choice the South African manager makes, there is one thing he is certain of, “We have to get everything right to set ourselves up for success”.
LAFC: Attack The Defense
Yes there is a long way to go but LAFC are off to an amazing start to the 2019 season and are arguably the best team in the league. The Black & Gold did not get where they are by accident as they have outscored their last three opponents 11-1 with Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi scoring 9 of those goals. Not only does LAFC have the best attacking duo in MLS but they might also have the best center-back partnership with Walker Zimmerman and Eddie Segura patrolling the defense. The Colombian 22-year old has been highly praised by his teammates in how quickly he has adjusted to Bob Bradley’s system and has contributed immensely on LAFC’s two consecutive clean sheets. Another bright spot has been Latif Blessing, who has continued to cover in the absence of injured Lee Nguyen over the past several weeks. The Ghanian’s presence in the midfield has allowed for high-speed transition in attack, an area where FC Cincinnati struggle with defensively. Another weakness of the Orange & Blue is their center-backs inability to defend the 1-on-1 battles along with cutting off the through ball. In order to take advantage of this, LAFC will need a certain player to step up big.
With Adama Diomande out due to a hamstring injury, Christian Ramirez will make his first start for the club since Week 3 and will be heavily involved in the attack. FC Cincinnati will be fully aware of Vela and Rossi to the point where they may even double-team them, leaving Ramirez and the incoming runs of Blessing and Kaye with more space to work with. If LAFC are able to isolate their players into 1-on-1 match-ups with Waston and Hagglund, it will make things very difficult for the FCC defenders to stay on their feet, putting them at risk of committing a foul in a dangerous area. If you are LAFC, you want to stay away from putting the ball in the air because it will make Waston and Hagglund’s job that much easier with excellent aerial defending. The vision of Kaye and Atuesta will be very important in this match as the Orange & Blue leave huge gaps between players that invite through balls to be played and their back-line four is still adjusting to one another.
The key player for me in this match will be Christian Ramirez. If he can make those runs and create space for others, LAFC will be in good shape. It’s a huge opportunity for the American to prove to Bob that he should be the starter as I see him having an excellent game. However, FC Cincinnati will do everything in their power to frustrate Los Angeles Football Club and prevent them from getting another win at home.
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