Los Angeles Football Club are coming off a rousing win in Concacaf Champions League on Thursday, taking a 2-0 series deficit and flipping it with a 3-0 win to advance past Liga MX side Club León.
Now, they have to turn the page and gear up for Inter Miami on Sunday, to open the 2020 MLS regular season at The Banc against one of the the two new MLS expansion teams this year. Inter Miami want to be the next LAFC, while LAFC want a quick three points to open up the regular-season slate.
Here are three things I’ll be watching as LAFC kick off the MLS schedule:
Will Bob Bradley opt for squad rotation?
Now that LAFC’s CCL run will go another round, there will be early-season fixture congestion for the black-and-gold. Does this mean head coach Bob Bradley will look to rotate the squad right away, or opt to play the same starting XI to build fitness and form for the early season and CCL? Above all, the perpetual concern will be to make sure players don’t get hurt, but Bradley tends to run with a set group unless compelled by injuries/suspensions/international duty. I expect it will be 9-10 of the starting group from Thursday going against Miami, but it could signal a slight shift in tack based on the circumstances if a few more fresh faces are brought in for Sunday’s game.
Will there be a hangover?
It was a big win for LAFC, and the last time they got a big, emotional win at The Banc, they followed that up with a shock flat loss the next time out. The stakes aren’t as high for the season opener compared to the Western Conference Final, but there has to be a bit of a worry that there will be a letdown for LAFC in front of a national audience.
Add to that the uncertainty surrounding Inter Miami — will they be good? Does their team have enough balance? Are they ready for MLS? — and projecting how tuned in LAFC need to be to get a win is unclear. Obviously LAFC aren’t a team made to coast as a rule, but if Inter Miami have some kinks to work out in their opening games, then any hangover effect for LAFC may be mitigated if their opponent isn’t quite ready for the bright lights.
But seriously, how will Inter Miami look?
We’ll do plenty of watching LAFC and certainly analyze how they play after this game, but there is a certain curiosity of Inter Miami. Hilariously, their marketing seems to revolve more around co-owner David Beckham than the team, which includes Rodolfo Pizarro, who will look to one-up Carlos Vela in the MLS MVP’s house. Diego Alonso is new to MLS — will he be more Tata Martino or Mikael Stahre as a head coach? Like LAFC, Inter are entering their first game with what looks like a light squad. It worked out ok for LAFC on that fateful day in Seattle, but can Inter Miami, the latest MLS expansion team to start from scratch, follow in the steps of LAFC and Atlanta United as a rousing success in their first season, or will they struggle like most expansion teams? You can’t write a season in 90 minutes, but this will be our first look to see Inter Miami’s level in 2020.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!