Los Angeles Football Club were an attacking force this year, with Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Adama Diomande, Latif Blessing, and others pushing the play into the attacking end.
Unlike a lot of traditional teams, though, LAFC did not play with a true defensive midfielder in their debut season.
Mark-Anthony Kaye ostensibly filled that role while he was healthy, and then after his injury, there was a combination of Eduard Atuesta playing there, and a double pivot of Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen playing in that role.
While those players are all good on the ball, none are really known for breaking up play, and then restarting things after they have broken up said play.
LAFC’s Achilles’ heel this year was defending leads, and dropping too many points while ahead.
Now, some of that was on the defenders, specifically the center backs, who too many times either fell asleep, misjudged plays (Danilo Silva on Real Salt Lake’s first goal in the playoff game) or gambled in bad positions and then lost (Laurent Ciman in the Houston Dynamo’s late comeback).
But also an issue was the lack of a defensive midfield force in the middle, to break up play and stop dangerous runs or counterattacks through the middle.
One play that really sticks out showing this is RSL’s game-winning goal in the playoff game vs LAFC.
While the goal ultimately was an own goal deflected off an LAFC defender, it came about because RSL right back Brooks Lennon was able to run straight through the center of LAFC’s midfield and defense before playing a one-two that lead to the deflected shot.
It is hard to imagine Lennon could have finished that run without a true defensive midfielder either dispossessing him or fouling him.
Finally, look at the last few teams to have won MLS Cup.
All the most recent champions had true defensive midfielders, and most of them were excellent players.
LAFC tried something radical this year. Their games were often exciting, but that fundamental part of their lineup was missing, and too often, it showed.
If LAFC want to compete for trophies, they should probably find a good defensive midfielder of their own.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!