Win at home, draw on the road

By: Andrew Doran

When Major League Soccer came out with the season schedule back in February, this two-game series against FC Dallas was one that I circled on the calendar. Dallas is a good team, they play really well at home, and push their opponents on the road. LAFC couldn’t beat them in their inaugural year, but this year, the Black & Gold were able to take four of the available six points. Let’s breakdown what happened on Sunday’s draw with a new 3252 breakdown.

3 things that went well:

LAFC pressing FC Dallas after they have up the ball.

Within the first 20 minutes of the match, LAFC was finally able to start to pressuring FC Dallas every time they were trying to work the ball out of the back. LAFC would go through ebbs and flows of creating pressure, but overall, it was really effective. They had plenty of chances to take advantage of the number of turnovers that they created.

The never quit attitude LAFC showed during the game.

Even after going down a goal and being tired, LAFC kept on pushing the ball forward, trying and willing the ball towards goal. Even though it took a second penalty kick for LAFC to get on the scoreboard, they were constantly trying to find a way into the net. They had a sense of urgency and fire to get a result. Compared to the Vancouver game, it was really nice to see.

LAFC was able to keep their cool during the course of the game.

With how the game ended on Thursday, it was known that this game was going to be passionate. From the first whistle until the last, there were a lot of emotions on both sides of the ball, but LAFC was able to keep their cool the entire time. They only had two yellow cards on the night, which shows how in control the team was. No one made any stupid emotional decisions that could have cost LAFC to go down a player. It’s hard to do that against a conference team, but LAFC did a great job at being chill in the heat of Dallas.

2 things that need to be worked on:

Miscommunication on the backline.

For some reason, there was a lot of miscommunication on the backline of LAFC today. Walker Zimmerman, the birthday boy, was out of position during a couple of the FC Dallas breaks, making Eddie Segura scramble to get back to get LAFC out of sticky situations. The best defense in MLS was having some struggles, which directly lead to the opening goal. It continued to happen during the course of the game as well, but none more glaring than Miller’s absent-minded play. Miller screwed up in the second half when he tried to be too cheeky and almost got a red card on a foul against FC Dallas. He tried to play like he was Vela but lost the ball and ended up grabbing onto the Dallas player. It was a deserved yellow, and likely lucky the referee didn’t give a red. This game was one of the most vulnerable games the defense has played this season.

Scoring goals outside of open play.

I wrote about this on Thursday, but it is insane that the highest scoring team in MLS has only scored from two penalty kick and zero free kicks. One of the biggest aspects of being the best team in an league around the world is having the ability to score on any free kick and any penalty kick. Especially since LAFC get fouled so often around the box, they need to make the opponent pay for fouling them. If teams know LAFC can’t score from a set piece, they are just going to continue to hack at the players and stop the flow of LAFC’s blistering pace.

5 key moments of the game:  

FC Dallas’s first goal in the 29th minute.

Just after FC Dallas scored, but it was ruled offsides, they come up with the same play and this time, have it end up in the back of the net. Steven Beitashour was trying to mark Dominique Badji but his hamstring went out and Beitashour couldn’t keep up. Badji crossed it across the box, Segura totally missed the clearance and Ryan Hollingshead was able to easily slot it home past Tyler Miller. Like at the beginning of the season, LAFC was going to have to find a way to come from a one-goal deficit.

Carlos Vela’s penalty miss.

After giving up the Dallas goal and Beithasour being substituted off, LAFC was trying to find a way to get back into the game. Latif Blessing, who started up top with Vela and Diego Rossi, was forced to go be a defender and Josh Perez came onto the field. LAFC was still pressing up and finally were awarded a golden opportunity with Vela taken down in the box. After lots of protests from the FC Dallas players, Vela was finally able to step up and take the kick from the spot. Unfortunately, Jesse Gonzalez, the young keeper, stonewalled Vela’s shot, keeping FC Dallas in front.

Straight red card for FC Dallas’s Matt Hedges.

Andre Horta, making his first start this season for LAFC, was able to make a great pass with the outside of his boot towards a sprinting Vela down the middle of the field. Vela got to the ball first, took two dribbles and then Hudges took him out from behind. It was one of the most clear-cut red card’s you’ll see in professional soccer. LAFC was going to be up a man for the next 40-plus minutes.  

LAFC strikers have the yips.

If you’re unfamiliar with the yips, it’s a term used in golf when someone who is normal good around the greens, can’t chip to the green. This is pretty much how all the strikers look in front of goal right now. Adama Diomande had a ball on a platter and had the ball scoot off his boot and went well wide of goal. Rameriz, who was brought on to find the goal, also couldn’t get the ball near the target either. With a lot of pressure on Vela, the other outfield players are going to need to find ways to support and create goals on their own.

Vela gets a second chance to put LAFC level, and this time, he converts.

As LAFC was pressing a lot, FC Dallas just packing all their men into the box, not allowing anything LAFC any possession. Finally, Vela took a shot on net and FC Dallas had a simple handball in the box. Not a single FC Dallas player complained about the call, which means everyone knew it was a penalty. Vela, who was 1-for-3 on penalties this season before the shot, was able to put a little bit more pace on the ball and put it past Gonzalez, who still got a hand to it. LAFC was finally level with FC Dallas, a scoreline that would hold for the rest of the game.

2 key figures of the game:

The center referee, Chris Penso.

Everyone knew that this game was going to be really physical and full of emotion especially after what happened at the end of the game on Thursday. Mark-Anthony Kaye even admitted that he needed to keep his cool after the match on Thursday because of how upset he was about the controversial tackle on Vela. Hell, even the coaching staffs on both teams started going after each other after the final whistle on Thursday night. With all that in mind though, Penso did a great job of taking control of the game and creating a safe game for both teams. Even though the game was fairly stop and start towards the beginning, it started to open up because the players had a good understanding of what was going to be called. For a game that could have easily had multiple red cards, there was only one, and it wasn’t a violent red. Penso deserves a lot of credit for making this game fun and safe.

Mohamed El-Munir.

I know Vela is going to get all the headlines, as he should, I think El-Munir actually saved LAFC not only once but twice in the final 10 minutes. He had one insane slide tackle that got rid of a Dallas counter and then another clearance that had the same outcome. Everyone was exhausted for LAFC and there were only three true defenders on the field, El-Munir, Zimmerman, and Segura.  El-Munir, with likely the freshest legs of the three, was able to step up and get stifle attacks as needed. El-Munir also had a lot of great crosses during the course of the game into the box as LAFC was still chasing a draw. He is taking advantage of getting some playing time for Bob Bradley’s crew.

For LAFC, they stay on top of the Western Conference after two games this week. Win at home and draw on the road is a common phrase in world football and LAFC is doing a great job at replicating it. They have another short week, as Montreal comes to the Banc of California Stadium for a Friday night showdown. It will be LAFC’s last home game until July, so hopefully, they will be able to make the extended Black & Gold family happy going into the summer.

Andrew DoranComment