Matchday 7 Preview: Los Angeles FC
Matchday 7 Preview: Los Angeles FC
FC Cincinnati goes on the road for their toughest test so far, and possibly the best team they’ll face all year. LAFC under Bob Bradley got off to a flying start last year in their first year of existence, and they’ve followed up with a sophomore year that is anything but a slump. Rising from the ashes of what was once an embarrassment of a franchise in the league, Chivas USA, LAFC has quickly turned into one of the most envied organizations in the league. Banc of California Stadium is amongst the best stadia in MLS, and we know FC Cincinnati officials were impressed by the design.
While FC Cincinnati has started off the season much stronger than almost any pundit would have predicted (2-2-2, 8 points), there isn’t a better team in MLS right now than LAFC (5-0-1, 16 points). Fans just saw FCC suffer a heartbreaking… draw against Sporting Kansas City last weekend at Nippert, (who last night that was walloped by Monterrey 5-2). The first half of the FCC-SKC match saw a highflying FCC attack that wasn’t afraid to move the ball quickly and skillfully. The second half however, saw adjustments that FCC couldn’t keep up with. A Spencer Richey mistake later and the game ended 1-1.
Last weekend LAFC played a very difficvult match, on paper, against DC United. Going into the match LAFC and DCU were both top of their respective conferences, an early battle of the best teams in MLS. But despite being evenly matched on paper, LAFC went on to embarrass the home side 4-0.
The overarching narrative around this game is the tale of two expansion stories. LAFC had four years between when they were officially announced and when they finally kicked a ball, a record 1,221 days. FC Cincinnati spent that same amount of time operating in the USL, having just 277 days from their expansion announcement to kicking an MLS matchday ball. LAFC built a brand new, state of the art stadium. They hired a big name manager in former USMNT and Swansea boss Bob Bradley. They splashed some cash on Mexican star and former Arsenal and Real Sociedad player Carlos Vela. Vela, for his part, already has 50% of his goal total from last year with seven goals in six games.
For FC Cincinnati, cynically, this may be a game of moral victories. MLS games are particularly brutal for road teams. MLS expansion teams take time to gel and feel out an identity. While this isn’t the very first game of the year, this is very early in the season. Losing here is perhaps more than expected. If FC Cincinnati can keep this match within two goals, they’ll have done enough to claim something of a moral victory.
Players You Should Know or Might Know
Carlos Vela, FWD
As mentioned in the story line, LAFC’s main focus has been Carlos Vela. He is the face of the franchise, their talisman, and the one the attack builds through. While he is not their only attacking threat, not by a long shot, he is a top three attacker in MLS and is a challenge for any goalkeeper to stop. Seven goals in six games is an absurd pace to keep up, but as of right now he is an easy front-runner for MLS MVP. It is worth mentioning Vela has been left off of the most recent Mexican national team rosters, something that is sure to bother him. Vela isn’t just playing for LAFC and the franchise that made him the cornerstone of their organization; he’s playing to get back into the national team in time for this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Long story short, a good player with a chip on his shoulder is a dangerous thing indeed.
Diego Rossi, FWD
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know who Rossi was, or maybe thought he was that Italian you guy heard of. Diego Rossi is a young Uruguayan winger who is impressing this year. At 21 years old Rossi came to the United States from South American giants Penarol. With six goals in six games, again already with 50% of his total tally from last year, he is proving to be a formidable attacking option alongside Vela. A veteran of the greatest competition on earth, the Copa Libertadores, he enters his second MLS season with a ton of experience despite his young age.
Walker Zimmerman, DEF
Zimmerman, along with defender Matt Hedges, created a formidable duo in Dallas. However before the start of last season, Zimmerman was traded to expansion side LAFC. In LAFC he has thrived as their go-to centerback. A very mobile, ball-playing centerback, he has a knack for coming up in big moments. Zimmerman is a player with an outside shot of making the USMNT, and if he keeps putting in shut-down performances for LAFC, he could easily play his way onto the US’s roster for the upcoming Gold Cup.
LAFC has a ton of attacking talent, and I would expect to see Koch set up a very defensive team. If FCC was ever going to attempt a back three (or five in this case), this is where we would see it. The biggest position to keep an eye on is Goalkeeper. Spencer Richey has been fantastic for FCC in place of the injured Tyton. However a big mistake last week, along with a now healthy Tyton, has Richey’s position in question. I expect Koch to stick with Richey, at least for one more game. But if there was a game where a keeper could earn their starting spot, this game should have plenty of chances for someone to stake their claim.
Fanendo Adi, FWD
Jimmy McLaughlin, MID
Los Angeles FC
Lee Nguyen, MID
Rodolfo Zelaya, FWD
Andre Horta, MID