LOS ANGELES, California (April 18, 2019) — It was bound to happen.
MLS have yet to see a team go the season unbeaten and last night was a good show of why. On paper this was supposed to be one of the easy matches of the season for the Los Angeles Football Club. However, many saw the trap game potential.
LAFC came into the match with a rotated squad, having several key players out with injuries and needing rest.
LAFC suffer first loss of the season to the Vancouver Whitecaps
Four changes were made to the lineup, with three changes coming at the back. Shaft Brewer Jr, Peter-Lee Vassell and Niko Hämäläinen all made their first MLS start. Danilo Silva made his first start of the new season. Meanwhile, Vancouver wasted no time and pounced on the inexperience.
From kickoff, the Whitecaps went to attacking the fullbacks of LAFC, finding space along both sides. Peppering goalkeeper Tyler Miller with shot after shot, it was a shot off the post that bounced to Hwang In-Beom in the 27th minute.
In-Beom took the chance and sent a rocket past Miller, giving Vancouver its only goal. However, it was enough to bring LAFC off the undefeated ladder.
The weekend match for LAFC proved to be a foreshadow of last night’s performance. Similar to the match against FC Cincinnati, Los Angeles came out flat from minute one. Passes weren’t made with their usual crispness, a lack of creativity permeated throughout the attack, and a lack of confidence is beginning to creep in.
In a match where they maintained possession 61 percent to the Whitecap’s 39 percent, LAFC never seemed threatening. Their play in the final third was far from what we have come to see, and even the buildup was stagnant at times.
"It's going to be another big game. The guys are up for it."
A top of the west clash on Sunday at @BancStadium.
— LAFC (@LAFC) April 18, 2019
While it would be easy to point to the new faces and blame the rotated squad for the loss, the fact is everyone was bad. The attacking front as well as two of the three midfielders have started all season. Having scored at least two goals this season in each match prior, last night they failed to get going. Lack of creativity in the middle of the field, and poor passing in the final third as a whole, proved to be LAFC’s undoing.
Lack of experience, not depth
The reaction from many immediately after the match was to jump to the conclusion that LAFC lacked depth. While this may be true in part, it is not why they lost. Eddie Segura was the lone bright spot, doing all he could to keep goals out and succeeded far more than he failed.
Even with the changes, LAFC limited Vancouver to only 39 percent possession and only four shots on target. As mentioned before, the goal came after a chance came off the post, not a display of great offensive prowess and attack. The young fullbacks flashed their talent in moments, but were often caught in the wrong positions. This comes with more time and experience. While additions are great, this team needs time to grow its youth, more than it needs to buy more players.
“We’re trying to continue to become a better team. One of the ways you show you’re better is when you lose a game, there’s a strong response.”
On to Sunday. Be there.
— LAFC (@LAFC) April 18, 2019
As bad a performance as last night was — and it was bad — there is no need for any doom and gloom. This is still the best team in the MLS. Last night, fans witnessed LAFC at the worst we have seen them, arguably since the 5-0 blowout to Atlanta early in their inaugural season. However, even the worst was only a one goal loss. With three new defenders in the lineup, they only allowed one goal on four shots on goal. In addition, they were playing a Vancouver team hungry for their first win of 2019.
Speaking of hungry, things only get more intense for LAFC with this weekend’s opponent. A familiar foe and budding, if not fully bloomed rivalry, the Seattle Sounders make the trip to The Banc with revenge on their mind. One of the now two remaining unbeaten in the MLS, Seattle have yet to defeat LAFC, losing both previous meetings.
Seattle were the first opponents to play LAFC, hosting them in the 2018 season opener, then they were the first to visit The Banc, in LAFC’s historic home opener. Both matches ended in 1-0 victories for the Black and Gold.
In a way, last night’s match was a sacrifice that had to be made to ensure a full strength squad for this Western Conference clash. This match will be huge, revenge for Seattle, bounce back for LAFC, both playing for Western supremacy and bragging rights.