Editorial — Saturday’s match was as bad as it gets for LAFC. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the oppressive heat and high humidity that made it a difficult watch. From kickoff, the play from LAFC was the worst we’ve seen from them. Luckily, the team won’t have to wait long, as they look to rebound against Real Salt Lake, on the road, Wednesday night.
LAFC Look to Rebound on the Road Against Real Salt Lake
Galaxy Clean Sheet
In a match that LAFC and their supporters will want to forget, the LA Galaxy not only won, but dominated. LAFC’s Bob Bradley said it best after the match, “the game had no tempo, we weren’t dangerous, and we just looked like we were second best throughout the day.”
Picking nits, deciphering who was worse, is a futile effort. However, there was one absence above all, that proved impossible to overcome.
In 2019, I wrote about the importance of Eduard Atuesta. Even then, I wrote LAFC will need him, more than any other player, should they want to lift the MLS Cup. Not only has nothing changed my mind in that regard, but Saturday strengthened the position. Even with a returning Carlos Vela, this squad had zero bite in attack. Passing was poor, build-up was slow and sloppy and they finished with 10 shots. Only three shots were on target.
While he was listed as having a foot injury, there were no specifics, nor timetable given, for his return. Suffering the first clean sheet to a rival in a derby isn’t ideal. However, LAFC will need to focus on what’s ahead if they want a spot in the playoffs, let alone a shot at the MLS Cup.
"We didn't look like ourselves, we never found any rhythm."
— LAFC (@LAFC) August 23, 2020
Injury to Insult
The biggest news coming out of Saturday wasn’t just the poor way in which LAFC lost, but the knee injury to star-man Vela. After contact on a blocked shot earlier in the match, it was the 55th minute that saw Vela pull up lame and taken off for evaluation. As of the writing of this article, no word on his status was given, with LAFC telling LA Times’ Kevin Baxter an update would come ahead of the RSL match.
With LAFC already missing Atuesta for an unspecified amount of time, and now with Vela looking at at least a few matches off, this season has gone from bad to worse for the black and gold.
However, if Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez and Bradley Wright-Phillips can bring their Orlando Bubble play from here on out, they’ll still have a great chance at achieving their goals.
LAFC Need to Rebound in Utah
Given their history, it’s strange to see LAFC in a must-win situation, that doesn’t involve single-elimination, but here we are. In a shortened season, every win is critical, especially the matches against teams fighting for the same playoff spots. LAFC currently sit in fifth, level on points with sixth-place RSL. Meanwhile, LAFC are only four points clear of 11th placed Galaxy.
RSL, for their part, are coming into Wednesday fresh off a 4-1 thumping of the Colorado Rapids, and can smell blood in the water. Midfielder, Maikel Chang led a second-half surge, scoring one and assisting on two of RSL’s four goals. They’ll look to build on that momentum with Wednesday’s match critical in the early push for a playoff spot.
— LAFC (@LAFC) August 24, 2020
The Road Ahead
After a somewhat average showing at MLS is Back, in addition to Saturday’s stinker, it’s safe to call this the worst stretch of play in LAFC’s history. While there have been times where the goals didn’t come, or mistakes were made. However, this is the first time the team seems to have felt the effects of it.
Ahead of Saturday’s match, Carlos Vela stated, “This year, anything outside of winning the title would be a failure for us and that’s the way we see it.”
While Vela has always been the one to vocally express their desires to win, this is the first glimpse of a sense of urgency. The window for this squad as constructed, is closing quick. However, it isn’t due to declining talent, but rather departing talent. Atuesta and Rossi already have European eyes watching, with moves presumed for both in the very near future.
While Saturday was bad, it isn’t all doom and gloom. This team has proven they can win without Vela, and if they can navigate missing pieces in the midfield, they can still put themselves in position for a postseason push. First, they’ll have to rebound and secure the full three points Wednesday in Utah.