Set for victory
The revenge tour is still chugging along for LAFC. After beating almost every team that beat them last season, LAFC only had two more names to cross off that list. Tonight, against the New York Red Bulls, they had that opportunity.
They did not squander it.
For the first time in the franchise’s young history, LAFC was able to beat a team with New York in its name. With a final score of 4-2, LAFC created more separation at the top of both the Western Conference and more importantly, in the Supporters Shield. Let’s break it down!
3 things that went well
Assists that were absolute dimes
Coming into the game, LAFC had scored 61 goals and over 95% of them have come from assists. It speaks to how much LAFC relies on team goals. Tonight was no exception. With the first goal, Carlos Vela hit a beauty of a pass off a free-kick that ended up finding Jordan Harvey’s head. The second goal, scored by Latif Blessing, was from a inch-perfect cross from Steven Beitashour. Even the last goal, scored by Eddie Segura, was again, a perfect pass from Vela. LAFC’s passing was suspect tonight, but at least those three crosses were perfect.
The intensity to start the second half
After giving up two really late goals to finish off the first half, I was wondering how LAFC was going to come out. Would they play further back in order to help out the backline who were struggling to find openings, or would they come out and try to find a way to get back into the lead? Well, it turned out to be the latter. The first 15 minutes of the second half was almost all LAFC. They put the ball into the net, but it ended up coming back out due to VAR. Even so, the Black & Gold kept their foot on the gas. It paid off in the 60th minute as LAFC went back in front via a Vela penalty kick.
Kept on exploiting New York
You could almost feel it in the stadium. Before New York went down again in the second half, you could see and feel them getting nervous. The pressure that LAFC was placing on them was too much to handle. Their shape started to change from playing wide to playing up the middle. They were trying to throw balls forward to no one, hoping to catch LAFC out of position. And while they did that, LAFC kept their composure. The Black & Gold kept on going to what was working against New York, set-pieces and give & go passes. Because they didn’t change, LA was able to get another two goals in order to see off New York.
2 things that need to be worked on
Passing out of the back
LAFC had a really tough time during the course of the match trying to pass out of the backfield. Tyler Miller had a goal kicks that either went right to a New York Red Bull or went straight out of play. The backline also had multiple possessions that turned into turnovers because they were not able to make a pass. A lot of the turnovers came in the defending end, so NYRB was able to turn right away and attack. Luckily, it never came to haunt LAFC in a way of a loss, but it is something they need to tighten up come October.
Not keeping concentration throughout the game
LAFC was cruising in the first half. They were finding their stride in the midfield, Harvey and Beitashour were overlapping on the wings, and Diego Rossi was starting to switch sides with Vela which allowed for a lot of space in the middle of the field. But then, LAFC practically switched off. The defense had some awful passes forward and then got burned badly, all within a couple of minutes. New York only had two good opportunities in the first 40 minutes, and then almost three amazing chances in the last five minutes. LAFC has gotten better about seeing through games this season, but this issue was harking back to last season when they were not able to hold onto a lead.
5 key moments of the match
LAFC escape trouble in the 20th minute
In a example of LAFC’s passing not being clean, the team was trying to reset, passing the ball back to Tristan Blackmon. The pass was poor though and Blackmon ended up missing it. In a matter of seconds, it became five red jersey’s against two black and gold. In reality, New York should have scored, but no one wanted to take the shot on goal. Segura ended up making one key deflection, with Mark-Anthony Kaye clearing the ball. It ended up being massive as LA was able to go back down the field get off the mark first.
LAFC actually score on a set-piece
LAFC’s biggest weakness throughout the season has been the lack of set-piece goals. They struggle on corner kicks and free kicks that are not directly in front of the goal. I could tell that tonight was going to be different though from the second corner kick of the night.
The tweet above was actually a video, but you can already see a couple of black jerseys open from their runs into the box. While LAFC didn’t score off a corner, the open runs were there for the taking. Less than 10 minutes after this tweet went up, Vela ended up crossing a perfect ball into the six-yard box off a free-kick and Harvey emphatically headed the cross into the net. It was Harvey’s first goal in two seasons and LAFC was finally on the board.
The Red Bulls come all the way back
Just when everyone thought LAFC was going to be going into the locker room with a 2-0 lead, New York brought some intensity into the game. They started to figure out where LAFC was weak and exploiting it. They were picking off passes in between the defense and midfield and turned those miscues by LA into goals. The Red Bulls came roaring back into the game, which gave them all the momentum going into the second half.
Vela gets on the score sheet via a penalty
As I wrote above, LAFC came into the second half pressing really hard. Their passing was quick and they were utilizing space on the wings a lot more. The intensity was there for the Black & Gold, but they were still looking to break the deadlock. Finally, they were able to find on the left side of the penalty area with Eduard Atuesta. On yet another give and go, Atuesta passed it to Kaye, who gave it right back. Atuesta was already past Rece Buckmaster who could only turn around and trip Atuesta up. Of course, Vela was going to take the penalty and he put the ball into the back of the net with clinical precision. The deadlock was broken and LAFC was rightly ahead.
Wait, what!? Another set-piece goal?
For a team that has been terrible from set-pieces, I couldn’t believe my eyes when LAFC’s fourth goal rippled the net, again off a set-piece. The fourth goal looked eerily like the first goal; Vela on the right hand side with a free-kick, hitting a perfect ball into the box, and a defender getting his head to it. This time, it was Segura who was able to put the ball past Luis Robles. The 4-2 scoreline proved to be too much for New York and LAFC was able to take another three points.
2 key players of the game
There has been a lot of chatter on how Harvey has lost a step and he’s not the same as he was last season. While a lot of it is warranted, Harvey played likely his best game of the season. He was all over the place. Right my point of view, he was running freely down the wings with almost no Red Bull players following him. He caused havoc because of it. He had some great give and go’s with the midfield, he was also making open runs on set-pieces and was fairly solid on defense. Overall, a great game for the old MLS veteran.
There is something special about watching a player in their prime. Everytime they touch the ball, you always feel like something special is going to happen. It could be a pass, it could be a nutmeg, and you’re always hoping for a golazo.
That person right now is Carlos Vela.
His skills and leadership compliment this team so well. People who didn’t watch this game will only see that he scored one goal via a penalty. But those who watched live know that without Vela, this team would have struggled to stay up with New York. Even Bob Bradley admitted in his postgame press conference that Vela has grown a lot as a leader since he’s been in LA. And to make today more special, Vela tied the MLS record of combined goals and assists in a season. In the 24th game. Not only is he going to break the record, he is going to shatter it. Not bad for only your second year in MLS.
LAFC will now have to focus on Real Salt Lake in Utah next week. It will be an interesting match, since RSL literally fired their coach during the game. As long as LAFC stay within themselves though, they will continue to threaten all the season-long MLS records and hopefully win their fourth game in a row.