Los Angeles Football Club got the weekend off, and it was some well-earned rest after a long 31-week season.
The Supporters’ Shield holders are gearing up for their first playoff game this year, and because they have a bye with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference...they’ll get next weekend off, too.
MLS made a major change this year with the playoff format. Instead of having to deal with the October and November international windows, the league changed the entire playoff format to a single game each round (conference semifinals and conference finals were formerly two-legged series) and opted to take a break between the end of the regular season and playoffs for the October international window.
It makes sense, there’s no good reason why teams who have international players should be penalized for having to play through international breaks in the playoffs, the most consequential part of the season.
And for teams with injury woes, having a long break can also be an obvious advantage, as it gives time to recover and recharge before the biggest games. In LAFC’s case, extra time could give Walker Zimmerman time to recover and be fully ready.
But could it backfire? I’m a big believer in rhythm for teams. Some teams struggle to come back after a bye week, let alone anything longer. Obviously matchups make a difference and some teams can adapt to a long layoff better than others.
When teams are out of rhythm, they usually don’t regain it in 90 minutes, but one thing to consider is that while LAFC earned a bye in the first round, their opponent — Minnesota United or the LA Galaxy — will have played a game several days before they take on LAFC. Even if they may not be totally in sync, that extra game could give them more cohesion with LAFC coming off a break of 18 days.
LAFC sort of had a gap in their schedule this season, as they went 27 days between league games in June, as there was a break for Concacaf Gold Cup play. But they weren’t off from playing games for 27 days, as they played two U.S. Open Cup games in the middle of the break. In the end, the longest gap LAFC had in that stretch was 10 days.
Overall, LAFC’s longest run without games was 10 days. On the bright side, they won that game back after the break. Can they stay focused and fresh and sharp with 18 days off?
Ultimately, we’ll only know for certain if the long break was no big deal is if LAFC wins on Oct. 24 and then go on to win MLS Cup. Anything can happen in one game, and a long layoff may or may not make any difference in the end, but only time will tell. Still, this will be something to keep an eye on, with a new schedule and playoff format, if the top seeds will feel the advantage or if it will unintentionally sink their hopes of lifting MLS Cup.
Is the long layoff before the playoffs good or bad for LAFC?
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Won’t know until October 24!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!