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5 reactions from LAFC’s 2-1 win over Sporting KC

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A fun way to start the season. But what did we learn from this game?

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club started the season off in style, with a dramatic 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. Here are five things that stood out about the season opener.

The game was a physical battle, and LAFC will probably experience more of that throughout the season.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There wasn’t much easing into the new season, as Sporting Kansas City provided a very good and physical opponent. The physical play started from the jump, with Gerso and Felipe Gutierrez fouling early and often to start the game. As he often is, Carlos Vela was a target of a lot of these fouls. In total Sporting KC picked up five yellow cards in the first half. Sporting KC is always known for being a physical side so this was not surprising, but because of LAFC’s skill and style of play, expect more teams to get chippy with LAFC throughout the season.

LAFC struggled at times to play out of the back

Sporting Kansas City were pressing high as the game got going, and LAFC had issues with this. Right before the first goal, LAFC were being pressed high up the field, and they tried playing out of the back, but kept being crowded out of blocked by Sporting as they tried to play up the field. This, combined with an unfortunate deflection off the referee, lead to the opening goal by Sporting Kansas City. LAFC want to have keep possession throughout the game, and part of this is going to involve playing out of the back. But in doing so they need to make sure they don’t turn the ball over near their goal, and if they need to play the ball deep sometimes to beat the press, so be it.

The midfield looked good

LAFC’s midfield last season always felt like a puzzle missing its final piece. Because of injuries, new player acquisitions midseason, and also just the philosophy of playing without a true defensive midfielder, LAFC’s midfield play was uneven at times. But tonight they played well, Mark-Anthony Kaye does not look worse for wear after his injury last season, Eduard Atuesta was lively and energetic and looked good on the ball, and sent a great ball to Diego Rossi for the tying goal, and Lee Nguyen was floating into pockets of space to create play and distribute the ball. If anyone (cough, Andre Horta, cough) is looking to break into this midfield, they will need to put in the work.

Carlos Vela: Still good

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I mean, at a certain point you just run out of things to say about the guy. Carlos Vela showed no signs of the slight injury he picked up in the last preseason game. Carlos was at his dynamic best, weaving past and around many Sporting KC players, who either got beat or were forced to foul him. Apart from missing a few half chances he had in the first half, Vela pushed the envelope and tormented KC defenders time and time again.

Dio and Christian Ramirez will continue to push each other for the starting forward position

When you have two very good forwards but only one forward spot in your formation, one player will miss out on starting. Once they both joined the team last year, for LAFC that player was Christian Ramirez. Adama Diomande was able to displace Marco Urena when Dio joined LAFC, and mostly keep Ramirez at bay once he joined the team. The talk of the preseason though was Ramirez, who secured his first caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team, and seemed to win the starting forward spot going into the year. But things swung back Dio’s way in the game, as he replaced Ramirez on the hour mark after a decent but not great performance by Ramirez. And then Diomande went on to score the winning goal at the end. One game is not likely to change Bob Bradley’s mind if he has decided on Ramirez as the starter. But assuming both players stay healthy and in good form, expect this to be a battle for playing time throughout the whole season.

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