SKC Celebrate Their Second Goal 181028 IMG

Carlos Vela set the ball on the spot with his team behind a goal in its top of the conference clash with Sporting KC. His team had gone from having the tying goal cleared off the line to up a man and a converted penalty away from leveling the match at 1-1. 

Vela made no mistake.

The LAFC captain sent goalkeeper Tim Melia the wrong way, and LAFC had just under a half an hour to find a winner. A winner that would wrap up the Western Conference in the Club's inaugural season - a feat no expansion team had ever accomplished. A winner you'd feel pretty confident LAFC could find under the circumstances.

  • SKC 2-1 LAFC
    • 37' SKC - Roger Espinoza | WATCH
    • 63' LAFC - Carlos Vela (pk) | WATCH
    • 72' SKC - Daniel Salloi | WATCH

But just as quickly as things turned LAFC's way in the 63rd minute, they did another about-turn in the 72nd minute. 

Daniel Salloi, SKC's leading scorer in 2018, had a free run into the LAFC penalty area and put his team ahead for good less than 10 minutes after Vela equalized. And LAFC couldn't manage a single shot on target in the match's final 20 minutes despite having the man advantage. 

Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 2-1 loss in KC:

A Cagey Affair

There was no need to remind either of these teams what was on the line on Decision Day. The match was physical and high tempo from the onset. Both teams had trouble finding a rhythm and the fouls piled up early.

It wasn't the prettiest football but it was intense. LAFC gave as much as they took from Sporting KC in the opening half an hour, but the stop-start nature of the match definitely benefitted the home side.

If You Like Passing, Avert Your Eyes

Not a good day for the beautiful game.

Neither team cracked 80-percent accuracy on its passes. Which is surprising for two teams that value the ball so much. LAFC was particularly poor though despite connecting more passes and having the man advantage.

5 Takeaways From LAFC's 2-1 Loss To Sporting KC -

Too often passes forced teammates to break from their runs or missed the mark completely. There's a lot of red on that pass map from LAFC's first half. And the second half was only slightly better.

What is even more worrisome is that many pass attempts weren't necessarily under duress. These were unforced errors on so many occasions. And nearly everyone in Black & Gold was guilty at some point. 

Total Lapses

All credit to Roger Espinosa, he hit a screamer to open the scoring. But it probably never should have come to that. 

The play starts with a poor pass in a situation that you just can't afford to be careless. Even then LAFC a bailed out temporarily, but much of the damage is already done. By not clearing their lines and fully dealing with the initial danger, the team is left to scramble back to its shape. You have four players watching the ball while trying to find reference points in defense and Espinosa is able to camp out in open space, easily receive the pass, and then fire on goal. 

And the second goal is more of the same.

This is a situation that 99 times out of 100, LAFC deals with this easily. But there's little to no pressure on the ball. Sporting KC connect a few passes and LAFC is left chasing. They simply have to react better in the moment and not let things pile up like that.

These letdowns drive Bob Bradley crazy. They creep into matches and usually result in LAFC suffering as a result. Come playoff time, these are the moments can be the difference between moving on or going home.

Midfield Letdown

This is an extension of the second point, but it was significant enough to bring up again. 

Through 33 matches - plus a friendly and the Open Cup run - Bob Bradley has hammered certain ideas. One of which is the way his midfield works together to control matches. In KC, there was no cohesion at all in the midfield.

Too often, players were completely disconnected. I'm not sure we saw more than a couple of passes between midfielders the entire match. The result was usually an isolated midfielder running at 4-5 SKC defenders with only the front three as options. That becomes very easy for an opponent's backline to defend, especially with the likes of Ilie Sanchez shielding them. 

The LAFC midfield is the engine of the team. Their ability to link passes and interchange with the front three creates the openings for opportunities. We saw very little out of them today and other than the set-piece opportunity that led to the penalty, SKC was able to shut up shop pretty easily.

On To The Playoffs

It's a quick turnaround now. LAFC finishes the regular season in the third spot in the conference, which means they have to take part in the knockout round of the playoffs. They'll host Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium on Thursday. So there's little time to dwell on things.

It's winner take all in the first round and LAFC defeated RSL on two occasions during the regular season. But because of the quirks of the MLS schedule, RSL has actually had an entire week of rest leading - they were the only inactive team on Decision Day. 

The second week in a row with it all to play for. It's time to make history once again at the Banc.

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