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Breaking down LAFC’s midfield and attack against Seattle Sounders

LAFC’s midfield had a particularly good game against Seattle.

MLS: Seattle Sounders at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club had a lot to think about against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday evening. Not only was Seattle in desperate need of points in the Western Conference, but LAFC wanted to avoid the revenge factor that Seattle was going for, having opened the season with a 1-0 win in Seattle. Add that to the opening of Banc of California Stadium, LAFC’s shiny new home, and Seattle was there just to spoil the party. All the pressure was really on LAFC.

The pressure of the game really came down to the midfield, which has been key in LAFC’s performances this season. In wins, like against Vancouver (and frankly the first half against the Galaxy), the black-and-gold midfield has performed well and worked the ball around the pitch, as well as disrupted the opposing ball movement. In losses, like the second half against the LA Galaxy and against Atlanta United, the midfield could not get anything done, getting all of their chances shut down and their movement disrupted. Atlanta is the perfect example — LAFC could not get the ball forward, nor complete a pass in the midfield or into the final third.

In the match against Seattle in the Banc of California Stadium opener, LAFC’s midfield performed exactly like they needed it to. The five (or four, depending on the moment of the game and the rotation of the players) in the midfield included most of the usual suspects: Benny Feilhaber, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Carlos Vela, Omar Gaber, and Diego Rossi (if he was not playing more as a forward at the time). The shape would rotate between a 4-2-3-1 (with Feilhaber and Kaye as defensive midfielders and Rossi, Vela and Gaber right behind Marcos Ureña ) and a flat 4-4-2, with Feilhaber and Kaye in the middle of the midfield, with Vela on one side and Gaber on the other.

Feilhaber settled quickly into the match, moving up in the midfield as well as falling back, right in front of the center backs. Kaye played his usual style of moving around the midfield in a more offensive style to create space as well as disrupt the Sounders. Vela did exactly what he normally does, which is being a nightmare for the defense and creating space and scoring opportunities. Meanwhile, Rossi did what Rossi does, not unlike previous games, and Gaber worked the right side in his debut start.

The midfield had the task of going up against the likes of Clint Dempsey, Cristian and Alex Roldan, Ozzie Alonso, and Nicolas Lodeiro. Seattle’s midfield did what we pretty much expected, given the talent in the midfield and the trouble they can give teams. LAFC, once they got into the rhythm of the game, was able to move the ball around and move up the pitch, and deal with pressure from Seattle’s defensive mids. The passes from the back were well-placed and created attacking chances for the attackers, including Ureña, Vela and Rossi. The midfield also had plenty of rotation, which mixed up Seattle’s midfield and helped Vela in particular to cause problems for the defense.

The midfield was able to also seamlessly transition into the attacking phase for LAFC, given that Rossi and Vela are natural attackers. Ureña was able to get the passes from the midfield and go into the open space that was created moving forward and get into the box. Vela and Rossi did their usual work of getting inside the box and creating chances. Gaber added something different to the match, with more of a creative movement than Latif Blessing’s speed and attacking prowess brings to the game. Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour added crosses into the box, which helped the team get chances for headers.

Really, it was not until the second half that the team got their real dose of attacking chances. There were several times in the first half were defenders got to the ball first in the box, or where crosses went all the way through the box. The team did not have a very clear chance on goal until the second half, where there were a couple chances that were close, but still closed down by the Seattle defense.

Once the team got the hang of the game offensively and adapted to the likes of Seattle’s pressure, the midfield got more comfortable, and the attackers got more opportunities. That was why the attack had some more trouble in the first half. Even though the attack themselves were not responsible for the goal, Ciman would not have had that free kick without Vela drawing the free kick. That happened because of the space from the midfield and the openings that the attack created throughout the game.

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