Los Angeles FC – Los Angeles Galaxy: Vulnerability In Transition Costs Los Angeles FC A Win Over City Rivals (3-3)
LA Galaxy scored the first goal of the match after just two minutes. Although Los Angeles FC equalized about ten minutes later, the guests were clinical on the counterattack twice, to achieve a two-goal lead, with just a quarter of an hour played. After that, LAFC dominated possession, yet needed a few adjustments in the second half to turn the game level again. Neither team was able to set the lucky punch though, leaving this match between rivals without a winner.
Tactical analysis and match report by Jonas G.
Just one month passed since the last ‘El Tráfico, the derbyof the two Los Angeles based teams in the MLS. Galaxy won that game 3-2, thanks to a Zlatan Ibrahimović hattrick, but things have gone pretty different for both teams since then. Galaxy went on to lose three straight games after the win against the rival, and have won just one game before this match. League leader Los Angeles FC however got back to winning ways and did not drop a point since the last meeting.
Both coaches were able to field their best starting elevens,as the hosts set up in a 4-3-3 formation. Mark-Anthony Kaye and Eduard Atuesta were positioned deeper than holding midfielderr Latif Blessing, who looked for spaces between the midfield and defensive line of LA Galaxy. The front three featured Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande and MLS top-scorer Carlos Vela.
Guillermo Schelotto’s men played in a 4-2-3-1 setup, with star-player Zlatan Ibrahimović up top. The three quick players behind him – Uriel Antuna, Favio Alvarez and Cristian Pavón – were decisive for the counterattacking strategy deployed by Galaxy in this match.
Los Angeles FC’s structure in possession
The hosts set up in a 4-4-2 formation, using a medium block. A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. played on the left and denied any passes into Walker Zimmermann because of his positioning. Therefore, the left center-back, Eddie Segura, was responsible for the hosts buildup. Álvarez looked to close the passing lane towards Atuesta as Sebastian Lletget followed the movements of Kaye if he was to drop deeper. To deny any passes behind the midfield chain, Jonathan dos Santos moved closer to Blessing and denied any passes towards him.
However, the good positional structure of LAFC looked to exploit exactly these situations. With Segura on the ball, they had a four-against-three overload When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. in the middle of the pitch. Added with the poor defensive behaviour from Álvarez – who was not able to constantly close the passing lane towards Atuesta – as well as Lletget and Dos Santos sometimes being too far away from their respective opponents, the hosts could advance the ball up the pitch easily.
Although Rossi was a possible passing option on the left, LAFC tried to get the ball to the right side more often. Diomande positioned himself in the right halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. and attacked the space between Diego Polenta and Jorgen Skjelvik with runs into depth. Steven Beitashour looked for space in the right halfspace too and could connect the rest of the team with Vela.
The way LAFC tried to build up from the back against Galaxy’s 4-4-1-1.
Galaxy dangerous on the counter
In possession, LAFC had some problems. With Kaye and Atuesta supporting the attacks with forward runs or trying to beat their opponents with a dribble in the middle of the pitch, turnovers created good counterattacking opportunities for the guests. If one of the defensive midfielders was caught high up the pitch, it was hard to win the ball back through counterpressing After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. for LAFC because they had too few players behind the ball.
After gaining possession, the wingers Pavón and Antuna immediately made attacking runs, looking to exploit the spaces left by the advanced fullbacks. Álvarez played an important part in these moments as well, as he created a passing outlet behind LAFC’s midfielders to start the counter-attack. Within sixteen minutes into the match, LA Galaxy scored no less than three goals through counterattacking situations.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) August 26, 2019
Bob Bradley’s adjustments for the second half
Although the hosts had more shots in the first half than their opponents, they struggled to get into promising shot locations. This was down to a few problems. If Vela received the ball on the right wing, he saw himself isolated against two opponents. His way towards the goal was blocked and he had to dribble into harmless spaces. Coming into the final third, The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. LAFC lacked width in their attacking play, allowing LA Galaxy to reduce the spaces in the middle of the pitch, which hindered the combination play.
The adjustments looked to tweak exactly in those areas. Both Vela and Rossi stayed wider and looked for spaces in the center. The connection from the right wing-back to the center was established by either Blessing, one of the defensive midfielders or Beitashour. The improved positional play in the final third eventually led to the game-tying goal in the fifty-third minute.
— LAFC (@LAFC) August 26, 2019
Like the goal, a lot of LAFC’s attack in the second half followed a similar pattern. Through the occupation of the wings, LA Galaxy’s formation was horizontally stretched, which made line-breaking passes easier. Because neither Ibrahimović nor Álvarez tracked back to support their team in the low block, one of the midfielders had to push up to pressure LAFC’s midfielders.
Atuesta and Kaye could attract these movements to play the ball between the lines where Blessing looked for space. The ball was then played to the wings were Vela and Rossi took on their opponents with dribbles. They could advance the ball into the box often, but the final pass was missing.
More balanced twenty minutes secure the point for LA Galaxy
With a lot of attacks not ending in goals or big chances, the speed in the overall game reduced with about twenty minutes to go. Los Angeles FC did not get into good one-versus-one situations on the wings anymore, meaning the wingers could take on their opponents with speed. In addition to this, LA Galaxy could hold on to the ball more often, giving them some rest from defending and producing their first shots of the second half.
Although the hosts still were the dominant team in the end of the game, they were not able to open up the opponent’s defence anymore. LA Galaxy had some counterattacking situations themselves, but they lacked support from other players which resulted in numerical inferiority.
Los Angeles FC came into the match and showed that they are currently the best team in the MLS. However, a lot of turnovers in the first half cost them, as LA Galaxy were clinical with their counterattacks. The host’s problem lies with the characteristics of their central midfielders.
Neither Atuesta nor Kaye are players that control the match out of the six-space. Although both of them are very good players advancing the ball either through passing or dribbling, they lack a more strategic quality. The decision making is flawed as both try to support their team in the attack or lose the overview, therefore leaving their position or trying a dribble where a safe pass would be the better solution. For all of the three goals LAFC conceded, a mistake by one of Atuesta or Kaye was the origin.
However, the attacking talent of these two players and the team in general is very good. If needed, they can come back from a two-goal deficit after fifteen minutes and still create enough chances to tie the game and be unlucky not to win it against one of the best opponents in the league.
“The response in the second half was great, we created a bunch of chances. The fourth was there but it didn’t happen tonight.”
Bob Bradley after our 3-3 Draw at the Banc. pic.twitter.com/QBp4d9jDMD
— LAFC (@LAFC) August 26, 2019
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