Los Angeles Football Club made history Wednesday night as it captured its first Supporters’ Shield, the first trophy in club history, and did so in dominating fashion. LAFC collectively found its form on both sides of the ball and snapped a five-game winless streak with a 3-1 victory over bottom-dwelling Houston Dynamo.
LAFC established its rhythm in possession early and remained patient in the final third throughout the match. Unlike against Toronto, who dominated possession in the first 40 minutes, Los Angeles’ ability to set the tempo and maintain possession depleted Houston’s ability to counter effectively as it (Houston) spent most of its energy defending deep. The only time that Houston looked dangerous was on set pieces and the plays following set-pieces (more on that a bit later).
In each of LAFC’s three goals, it was preceded by long stretches where Los Angeles strung several passes together around the penalty area. Yet what is noticeably different from previous matches is the movement off-the-ball is continuous and LAFC’s passes were penetrating lines regularly.
The two sequences that lead to Los Angeles’ second goal is a prime example of just how good the movement off the ball and the sharpness of passing all night was. The first sequence exemplifies how in just four passes that LAFC can progress the ball almost the entire length of the field. The latter shows the patience and how Los Angeles draws Houston out of its penalty area before exploiting the space.
Even though LAFC do not initially exploit the advance position of Tristan Blackmon, they patiently recycle the ball back into the opposite direction only to go back to Blackmon again, whose low cross makes it difficult to clear and leads to the eventual goal.
In spite of the changes to the starting lineup (two in the backline — Blackmon and Mohamed El-Munir — and one in midfield — Lee Nguyen), LAFC’s defensive discipline and organization were not compromised. The back four and midfield three consistently recovered balls after counter-pressing and knock down second balls. Both left back El-Munir and center back Eddie Segura were superb in anticipating passes over the top and recovering second balls which assisted in LAFC’s transition into attack.
Where Houston struggled in open play Wednesday night, it did not discourage its effectiveness on set pieces. About half of Houston’s total shots came directly off of a set piece of the ensuing scramble after attempted clearances by LAFC, including Houston’s only goal. The Dynamo’s only goal came off of a corner where LAFC keeper Tyler Miller was unable to punch the cross away because of the numerous bodies in the penalty area and instead knocked it down to Houston center back Aljaz Struna whose shot was blocked but then knocked in by a retreating Miller.
All things considered, LAFC’s victory over Houston showed that it has taken a step closer to overcoming any previous perceptions that Los Angeles is unable to earn a result when the stakes are the highest.
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