Los Angeles Football Club satisfyingly capped off a historic regular-season with a plethora of MLS records, both individually and collectively. Yet a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Decision Day has deeper implications regarding LAFC’s growth and potential trajectory heading into the playoffs.
While Carlos Vela netted a hat trick to break the MLS single-season goals record, and LAFC setting the single-season record for the most points are great accomplishments, the victory solidified the perception that this Los Angeles side can find a way to win in high-pressure matches.
Yes, the Rapids were an unlikely playoff team with little to play for, but the Rapids’ recent form had proven this match to be an important dress rehearsal for LAFC. Colorado entering Sunday had not lost in September and had impressive victories over FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders, Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls, all of which are current playoff teams.
The cohesion of LAFC’s front three was a large part of its success against the Rapids. Forwards Brian Rodriguez, Diego Rossi and Vela displayed a noticeable difference in their chemistry of late. Since LAFC manager Bob Bradley introduced this front three, Rodriguez has shown spurts of brilliance but before the match against Minnesota United and Colorado, but he hadn’t put together consistent performances.
On Sunday, Rodriguez once again showed how dangerous he can be in wide areas and even though he has yet to record his first goal or assist for LAFC, he gives Los Angeles a different look in the final third. When Rodriguez is dangerous out wide, it allows Vela to drift centrally and play between the lines.
Vela playing centrally in a No. 9 role throughout the match is not something new but with Rodriguez finding his stride, it has shown to be more effective as LAFC now have three dynamic forwards who must all be taken into account when in the final third. This sort of variance can help break down stubborn low blocks, especially in the postseason, where matches can turn into games of chess quickly where one fatal counter could mean elimination all together.
But as smalle as this result may seem in the grand scheme of things, it is important to note that LAFC was in a similar situation on Decision Day 2018 and squandered the opportunity with a 2-1 loss to 10-man Sporting KC, which led to a first-round loss to Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium instead of a first-round bye.
This win on Decision Day 2019 is already one step in the right direction for LAFC.
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