Let’s talk for a moment about Los Angeles Football Club’s next two games.
The team will face the same opponent, the Portland Timbers, in both. That’s not typical in the regular season, but not unheard of. Sometimes the MLS schedule will, either by chance or design, schedule back-to-back games against the same opponent. Even so, those games are always home-and-away, like they are in the playoffs or knockout series in other tournaments, and besides, that’s not what’s happened in this case.
In this case, LAFC will host the Timbers on Sunday in the teams’ second and final MLS regular season meeting of the year. Then, on Wednesday, LAFC will host the Timbers again, this time in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal round, with the winner advancing in that tournament.
It is unusual that two teams will meet in the same venue within four days, and just a coincidence they will be meeting in two different competitions. Frankly, it’s kind of weird! But it is what it is, and that’s why we’re here.
Adding to all of this is that LAFC have only lost four times in their very short history. One of the four opponents they have lost to? You guessed it, the Timbers.
So LAFC have a chance to get the better of an opponent who has previously gotten the better of them, but also, there is the added wrinkle of facing the same opponent twice in a row, with the second of the two games being far more consequential in the short term.
It’s the kind of scenario where a few approaches could be taken in gaming out the two games in the next week:
- LAFC approach both games the same, and Bob Bradley opts to use the same plan, and likely the same exact lineup or very close to it.
- Bradley decides to make some tweaks between the two games ahead of time, possibly keeps some players or tactical ideas in reserve in Sunday’s league match so they can try to get the better of Portland in the Open Cup on Wednesday.
- One game at a time, baby! No need to even think about the Open Cup game before Sunday’s game is played.
If I were to bet on it, I’d imagine Bradley will most likely go with the first option. We’ve seen this season, he worries about his own team. He’s not out here fretting over how to stop an opponent — instead, he believes in his own team and counts on LAFC to beat opponents primarily with attacking firepower, although he always wants to see a good defensive showing. But his team is definitely a front-foot team.
Still, aside from the MLS Cup playoffs, the best time to spring a surprise and throw out a new look and/or approach would be in the Open Cup quarterfinal, against an opponent you just saw a few days ago. I still don’t think Bradley will reinvent the wheel with his team between the two games, but...there’s still a little part of me that thinks it is possible.
Regardless of the approach used, this two-game set is the biggest test for LAFC yet. I think they are absolutely capable of giving Portland a taste of their own medicine at their own ground, but the looming Open Cup game raises the stakes considerably. Both of these teams want to win the Open Cup, and will almost certainly use a full-strength XI on Wednesday. They’ll also want to win Sunday’s game, of course.
Either way, it’s a weird coincidence of the schedule, but LAFC have a massive opportunity over the next two games. Can they come out the other side on top, in one or both of the games?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!