Los Angeles FC – Montreal Impact: Montreal’s Defense Overwhelmed by LAFC’s Attacking Fluidity (4-2)
The MLS match between Los Angeles FC and Montreal Impact promised to be a game at a high level. But Montreal seemed to be overwhelmed by the versatile attacking department of LAFC in the first half. Montreal switched to a more aggressive defending approach in the second half, but LAFC were already four goals up, and Impact were incapable of threatening the victory though.
Tactical analysis and match report by Max Bergmann.
LAFC is the current first-placed of the MLS Western Conference and they were clear favourites in their battle against Montreal. Nevertheless, Bob Bradley’s side recently failed to overcome FC Dallas and were therefore in need of points to consolidate their pole position.
LAFC played with a versatile 4-2-3-1 system. However, manager Bradley demanded a lot of rotational movements from his players causing a mutable shape at times. Therefore, the formation turned into a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-2-1 on occasion.
Central midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye formed the double pivot 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. together with Eduard Atuesta, while Latif Blessing acted like a playmaker flowing between the lines.
Montreal Impact on the other hand deployed a 4-3-3 formation. Nevertheless, they often had to adjust their shape into a 4-5-1 as they were pushed into their own half out of possession. During counterattacks, Montreal aimed at utilizing their fast right side with winger Orji Okwonkwo and fullback Bacary Sagna. On the other side of the field, wide forward Ignacio Piatti was tasked with assisting striker Maximiliano Urruti.
High press patient buildup lays the platform for LAFC’s success
From the beginning on, Los Angeles attempted to dominate the match with and without possession. Their high press was not only going to allow them a lot of ball possession but it also directly contributed to their early leading goal.
Bradley demanded his team to shut down all passing options within the opposition half. As a consequence, Montreal struggled to play out from the back. Often, they were forced to play long balls. By pressing the ball-carrier, LAFC were trying to avoid precise balls to be played behind their back line. Attacker Christian Ramirez pounced on a wobbly back-pass off a Montreal throw-in and blocked goalkeeper Evan Bush’s clearance. The ball ended up in Montreal’s goal.
Being one goal up, Los Angeles were capable of dominating most parts of the first half in possession. During their buildup phase, LAFC often used many players in front of the opposition block in order to sustain possession and enable their wide forwards to tuck inside.
Whereas right back Tristan Blackmon always moved up the line to support the attack, left back Jordan Harvey acted in a deeper role and only progressed up the pitch occasionally. Whenever Harvey stayed in a deeper zone, LAFC built up their play with an asymmetrical back three.
LAFC’s midfield rotations and attacking fluidity
After circulating the ball, their central advanced midfielder Blessing moved higher up the field and occupied the space between the opposition midfield and defensive line. Together with the attacking trio, Blessing posed an option to overplay the opposition midfield. Situationally, LAFC overloaded the area between the lines and tried to open up gaps. In these moments, Montreal’s center-backs moved out to mark or press those players positioned between the lines. But since the defensive line could not stay on one line, often one of the Los Angeles attackers ended up free in an onside position.
LAFC’s attacking fluidity including counter-movements as well as rotational movements between attackers and midfielders.
Moreover, single striker Ramirez did not just play the typical role of a robust striker who lays off balls and wins aerial duels. He cleverly created space for his team mates by dragging opposition defenders out of the back line.
In a broader sense, LAFC’s attacking department constantly interchanged their positions causing confusion in Montreal’s defense. This allowed winger Carlos Vela for instance to get into more central areas. After a short passing sequence and an interplay between LAFC’s double pivot, they found a gap between the opposition central defenders to assist Vela who had interchanged his position with Ramirez. The Mexican used the subsequent scoring opportunity to put his side two goals up.
Wide attacker Vela even became more threatening in the remainder of the first half. In the opening stages, Montreal could stop the Mexican by outnumbering him on the wing. The increasing distances between Montreal’s back line and midfield facilitated Vela to cut inside with his strong left foot though. That way, Vela initiated the third goal of the day, scored by midfielder Blessing in a transition moment.
All these concepts enabled LAFC to create many scoring opportunities in the first half. Therefore, the 3-0 lead at half-time was by all means only deserved, and could have even been higher.
Montreal with a more active press
In the second half, Montreal changed to a more aggressive defensive approach. They attempted to prevent LAFC’s double pivot to pull the strings in midfield. To do so, Rémi Garde’s team situationally utilised a 4-4-2 shape to press. Therefore, one of their advanced midfielders moved out of the line of five in order to support striker Maximiliano Urruti. Obviously, this approach was a risky one against LAFC’s offensive qualities, but although Los Angeles scored their fourth goal from a corner-kick, the strategy enabled Montreal to participate in the game.
Especially fullback Bacary Sagna could lend his side more attacking power. As Los Angeles did not press high in the second half anymore, the right back got the opportunity to move up the line during the possession phase. That also allowed the French defender to use his defensive qualities in 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. after losing the ball. One of these situations resulted in Impact’s first goal of the day.
Montreal’s missing penetrating power
One of Montreal’s key issues was the missing penetrating power within the last third. As displayed in our 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 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. plot and zone 14 Zone 14 is a coaching term that refers to the part of the pitch just in front of the opponent’s box. Completing passes in this area of the pitch is a sign of territorial dominance and is usually associated with a good performance. plot – see the slider at the end of the article – Montreal played only few balls into the opposition box from these areas. More often, they chose to play out wide to their fullbacks or wingers. The following crosses rarely found a team mate though as there were not enough attackers positioned within and around the opposition penalty area.
Their first goal initiated by fullback Sagna is exemplary for their lack of numbers up front. The cross from forward Urruti was not converted by a Montreal attacker but by LAFC defender Eddie Segura.
All in all, Montreal’s concept to threaten the opposition goal by getting behind the back line with fast attackers failed until the 83rd minute. This time, LAFC’s midfield could not apply enough pressure on the ball-carrier anymore. The following through pass got to substitute striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel who was fouled by defender Walker Zimmerman inside the penalty area. But the conversion of this penalty was neither more nor less than a second consolation goal.
To sum up, LAFC dominated Montreal and therefore deserved this victory. Their high fluidity during the attacking phase paired with a high press enabled Bob Bradley’s side to create plenty of chances especially in the first half of the game.
Montreal Impact on the other hand woke up too late. Their change in the second half to a more active defensive approach was rewarded with two goals. Nevertheless, Garde’s team were incapable of turning the game around due to a lack of penetrating power.
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