Following their 4-1 rout of the Seattle Sounders at Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles Football Club would travel north for a showdown at CenturyLink Field. On Sunday afternoon, the Sounders finished the match with nine men, but still managed to hold the black-and-gold to one goal, in a 1-1 tie. That’s usually not a good look for the team with 11 players, so let’s break down how the team performed!
Through 10 games the black-and-gold have allowed a league-low eight goals, that’s largely due to exceptional play from the defense and goalkeeper Tyler Miller. For most of the season Miller has been reliable, consistent, and has made zero-to-no mistakes. With that being said, he also hasn’t been tested much. LAFC have managed to keep the opposing team’s shots on target at a minimum, usually ranging from two to four shots on target, with the high being six shots versus New York City FC.
This game falls perfectly into that range, as the Sounders only had four shots, with three being on target. One of those shots led to a goal, but it wasn’t necessarily Miller’s fault. After an ill-advised pass by Eddie Segura, just 44 seconds after the first whistle blew, Miller found himself in a one-on-one situation with Jordan Morris, who swiftly put a left-footed shot to the right of the goalkeeper and into the net. It would be about 90 minutes or so until Seattle’s next clear opportunity at goal. In second-half stoppage time, Morris beat two defenders down the left side, passed by a sliding Miller, and was ready to tap the ball into an open net when a couple LAFC defenders and Miller, who managed to get back up, cleared the ball away.
Had Miller managed to somehow block Morris’ first shot, it would have been a perfect performance from him.
On Sunday, LAFC were without starting right back Steven Beitashour due to injury and in his place 22-year-old Tristan Blackmon made his first MLS start of the season. It was a solid showing for the youngster, who made no mistakes and greatly filled in for Beita in his 45 minutes of play before being subbed out for Lee Nguyen. Eddie Segura had his first major (and hopefully last) mistake of the season when an attempted pass towards Walker Zimmerman was cut off by Morris that led to the sole Seattle goal. He quickly put that mistake behind him as he looked calm and collected for the rest of the game.
Mohamed El-Munir made his third appearance for the club in the 70th minute at left back and quickly integrated himself into the game. In 20 minutes of play he managed to be active up and down the left sideline and even managed to get a shot off, that Sounders’ goalkeeper Stefan Frei sent away. El-Munir hasn’t seen the field much but when he has, he’s made the best of it. Moving forward it will be interesting to see if head coach Bob Bradley plays him more.
In general, the defense was strong and they made very few errors. They quickly cut off all Seattle attacks, and made it difficult for their forwards to get anything going. The black-and-gold had five different players play defense for them at a high level, a good sign moving forward when speaking about the team’s depth.
There is no question about who is LAFC’s best player, it is Carlos Vela. But after Vela, who is it? One can argue it is Diego Rossi, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta, or Lee Nguyen. Out of those four, three of them play in the midfield and are a crucial part of why LAFC sits atop the Western conference right now. Against Seattle, the midfield did exactly what they have been doing all season: they dominated the ball. The black-and-gold controlled possession over Seattle, 75 to 25, out shot the Sounders 21 to 4, and all this was largely due to the exceptional play in the middle.
Atuesta continues to make passes that make you question how exactly that got in there, Kaye continues to grow as the season continues, Nguyen is making progress after coming back from injury, and hopefully Andre Horta will be back soon. Overall, the midfield had a quiet but dominant night that included them creating multiple opportunities for a second goal that the forwards simply couldn’t take advantage of.
It was a night of many chances and missed opportunities for the LAFC offense as they struggled to score more than once. After a disastrous mistake by the defense that gave the Sounders a 1-0 lead, Rossi and Vela quickly countered to tie the game up. However, that was all the offense would be able to do at Century Link field. After a red to Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan the black-and-gold were at an advantage but failed to score again.
Following his best performance as a member of the black-and-gold, Christian Ramirez once again struggled on the field. In the 48th minute he had a clear chance at goal that he sent over the crossbar. In stoppage time, a quick counter led to Rossi being fouled just outside the box; this setting up one final attempt for LAFC to come away with three points. Unfortunately, Vela would shoot the ball over the post and LAFC would fail to score the much anticipated second goal of the game.
Vela had six shots, Rossi had five, Ramirez had three. That’s 14 shots from the forwards that only accounted for one goal, not a good look for the LAFC offense.
Week in and week out Bob Bradley has made some needed changes to the starting lineup. This week he started Blackmon at right back due to Beitashour’s injury. But it was his substitutions that raised some eyebrows. The substitutes weren’t bad, but they could have been made earlier. With Ramirez clearly uninvolved in the first half, Adrien Perez probably should have started the 2nd half. And with Seattle already down to 10 men, El-Munir could have also came on earlier as he integrates himself into the offense more than Harvey.
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