Los Angeles Football Club have been off to a flying start in their 2019 campaign. The Black-and-Gold stand on top of the Western Conference and Major League Soccer with 37 points, nine better than the closest competitors (the Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy have 28). LAFC have just one loss on the season so far, with 11 wins and four draws through 16 games. By all accounts, LAFC is in the midst of a season to remember. But how has the attacking portion of the formation done thus far?
Spoiler alert, the answer is pretty good. Like, historically good.
Let’s start with LAFC’s star and captain, Carlos Vela. When LAFC steps onto the pitch, the lights shine the brightest on their Mexican Designated Player, and for good reason. The man has 16 goals through 16 games, with 10 assists (six primary assists, as MLS counts secondary assists). For reference (courtesy of Angels on Parade’s friend @SteelyZidane), in his best season as a professional, in 2013-14 with Real Sociedad, he had 16 goals and 12 assists in 37 games. Last year, Vela had 14 goals in 28 games, along with 13 assists. At his current pace, Vela would break the 31-goal record set by Josef Martinez last year by a startling seven goals. Also a fun fact, Josef Martinez, last year, had 14 goals through 16 games.
Besides being a goal-scoring machine, Vela has also established himself as must-see soccer, and the most valuable player in the league. His ball distribution has only lead to goals and good things for LAFC (see his assist tally, which is at the top of the league). Every time he gets the ball, he is a threat to score, or otherwise cut open your defense. The fact that he has the likes of Diego Rossi, Latif Blessing, Adama Diomande, and Christian Ramirez helps a great deal as well.
Speaking of Diego Rossi, he is quietly having a great season as well. He has eight goals and three assists, and has played just 27 minutes fewer than Vela has. He is tied for fourth in the league in scoring with those eight goals along with Wayne Rooney and Nani. The fact that Rossi is a complementary piece for LAFC says a lot about their success so far this season.
Then, after you move past the DP’s, you have Latif Blessing. Blessing is another who is quietly brilliant for LAFC. MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle broke down just how important and good Latif Blessing is in his recent piece, and he’s right. Blessing is a winger who can play as a No. 10, and seems to cover every blade of grass. If LAFC have a sequence of possession, you’ll see Blessing get it in multiple different places. Due to his quickness and his work rate, Blessing is one of the hardest players in the league to defend, let alone contain. He seems to cause trouble every time he gets the ball, whether he is tearing down the field or not. He is a key component of LAFC’s high press and of their attack, and has proven he deserves the starting job over the likes of Lee Nguyen and (Designated Player) Andre Horta.
Adding even more juice to the attack are the two strikers, Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez. Any team would be lucky to have one of these players, and LAFC has both. That, and they both fit perfectly into what Bob Bradley wants his men to do. Admittedly, the two each have three goals for LAFC, but I’ll use the classic excuse: there’s only one ball. The two add exactly what LAFC need them to. Diomande’s hold-up play is fantastic. His finishing is clinical. He creates problems before the ball gets into the box, and when it does, he becomes a threat to score immediately. Ramirez is a classic striker with crisp runs and an eye for finishing off goals. The two of them combined give the formation so much space to work with and give the chance for others to create their own problems for the defense. While the two might not set any records this season, they deserve praise for what they help the team do.
LAFC is on a record pace so far this season, and one of the first reasons for that is their attacking corps. LAFC has 39 goals scored in 16 games, with a goal difference of +26. That goal difference is shockingly better than that of any other team’s, and also happens to be better than the goals scored of any non-Union MLS side. This team is special, led by a loaded attacking group, led in turn by an uber-talented player who is having one of the best seasons we have ever seen in MLS.
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