The first time Bob Bradley made big changes to his lineup this season, the team fell flat, losing for the first time in Vancouver. Last week, the same thing, as a few key players missing hurt the team’s rhythm.
With only Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman missing this game among the starting unit, LAFC played pretty close to a full-strength group, and it seemed to help them find cohesion. In particular, the engine room midfield of Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing were reunited for the first time in a month and the level of the team elevated considerably as a result.
Most important, LAFC did not suffer a sustained slump after the loss last week against the Colorado Rapids. They got back to what they’ve been doing well, and found success.
Pablo Sisniega was busy, making five saves and punching out two more balls in the game. He had a terrific acrobatic save in the first half and a save on a penalty kick by Daniel Salloi in the second half, picking up his first career win in MLS play in the process.
Sisniega has looked great in each of his four games so far with LAFC, and honestly looks better and better each time out, as he gets more rhythm. He’ll almost certainly play on Saturday, but after that he’ll likely have to make way for Tyler Miller, who has been fantastic himself from day one. While neither young goalkeeper has major crunch-time experience, the good news is that LAFC look to have two starting-caliber goalkeepers who can hold their end of the bargain for the team, and that’s a credit to the players, to LAFC’s scouting team and the coaching staff.
Consider this: Four of LAFC’s forwards — Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela and Rodolfo Zelaya — scored in this game. The situation for each of them is a little different, as Vela is chasing the single-season goal total (he has 17 in 18 MLS games, the league record is 31), Rossi is in the top 5 in MLS in scoring, Ramirez has struggled to score consistently this season, and Zelaya only recently began playing for the team after being signed in the offseason, and scored his first goal for the team here (and on his birthday!). No matter the individual circumstance, getting goals for the strikers is important for a top team, and LAFC really fed the forwards in this one. Of particular note, all of the forwards except Zelaya also picked up an assist to go with their goals in this game.
First domino falls
LAFC have a truly crazy stretch here, with four games in nine days, this the first one. They came out of this one with three points, able to keep their Supporters’ Shield leading pace in the midweek action. Now, will Bob Bradley make some more changes against Vancouver on Saturday, with the most important game of the stretch, the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against the Portland Timbers up after that? It seems pretty likely but he’s got to be pretty wary of making too many changes, since they seem to disrupt the group overall. Regardless, starting this stretch with a big win sets the tone well for the next three games, as long as they can get good results in the games to come, too.
It can be easy to take Carlos Vela’s remarkable season for granted. But take another look at his goal in this game. Notice how he does the shoulder shimmy to shake Matt Besler and create space for his shot.
A true thing of beauty from Vela. Long live the king.
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