With the all-time series drawing dead even between LAFC and NYCFC (0-0-2), the Black & Gold head into Week 7 following a strong 2-1 result against the Colorado Rapids. Following Diego Rossi’s two-goal performance, which registers as his seventh brace for LAFC (eighth career), LAFC aims to earn six points in the club’s two first matches of a four-match homestand. Carlos Vela will take the field for the fourth time this season, following a reacclimating 60-minute appearance against Colorado. LAFC is looking for their first win against NYCFC on Saturday in club history, as they have played to two 2-2 draws against the New York rivals.
Head Coach Bob Bradley will look to extend his all-time record against the Eastern Conference to 18-7-10.
NOW WE SEE YOU
Due to the quirks of the MLS schedule and scheduling around the pandemic-adjusted 2020 season, LAFC has not played NYCFC in over two years. The last time the two teams squared off was on March 17, 2019 in Yankee Stadium.
“Yeah, the schedule’s been strange,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “We haven’t played Colorado since the last game of the 2019 season, so even teams that are sort of regional don’t end up being on the schedule.”
Bradley feels that it will be good for the Black & Gold to move away, at least for a weekend, from playing Western Conference opponents.
“For sure, games against Eastern Conference teams, we look forward to them,” Bradley said. “We have two this year, the home game coming up with NYCFC and the away game at Atlanta. NYCFC, I think, plays good football. I think they have real ideas on how they want to play. So, it sets up to be a real good game.”
VELA GETTING BACK
2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela made his return to the starting lineup on May 22 vs. Colorado, starting and playing 60 minutes in his longest run time of the 2021 season. Vela suffered a right quad injury just 22 minutes into the season opening victory over Austin, and then returned to play the final 20 minutes against Seattle on May 16.
Vela’s return energized the Black & Gold, as he registered an assist on the second goal to Diego Rossi, and elevated the attack.
”Look, Carlos can make some plays and passes that maybe others don’t make,” Bradley said. “So, when you have a great player on the field, it’s not that it changes what others are trying to do, it just makes certain situations possible. A pass that he can make, that somebody else can’t make. Or, in certain moments, that when he makes a certain run, if I play this ball and his ability to take that ball on the run and finish it off – is top notch. Look, great players make others on the field better, with the way they move, with their just pure talent - the things they see, the things they do. That’s certainly the case when Carlos is on the field for us.”
Vela is expected to start again vs. NYCFC, but Bradley was not willing to commit to the star playing the full 90 minutes.
“We will bring him along and see where he is, how he is feeling,” Bradley said.
While LAFC has only won two games to start 2021, the Club is disappointed, but feels like they have played well enough to have more opportunities to win. 2019 MLS All-Star Mark-Anthony Kaye sees the need to sharpen up the details to make the difference.
“If you really look at it, it’s not that we’ve been playing bad,” Kaye said. “It’s just that we haven’t been as sharp as we need to be going forward and creating better opportunities leading to good attacks. I don’t think it’s necessarily players not being on the level they’re supposed to be. I think it’s a collective group effort that we need to do a little more for each other to give that guy a better chance going forward, or making the pass a little bit cleaner. For me, I like where the team is mentally and collectively. But again, I would rather us be able to continue to moving forward when it comes to closing games out and scoring more goals as that will lead to more points.”
LAFC midfielder Mahala Opoku suffered a knee injury while playing on loan with the Las Vegas Lights May 12 in a 3-1 loss in Sacramento. The 19-year-old Ghanian has played in a total of seven MLS matches in his career, but will have to wait some time before getting back on the field, after he underwent meniscal repair surgery on his left knee on May 24.
“We had been assessing the injury,” Bradley said. “But it turned out that it required surgery, and that will keep him out for a period of time.”
No time table has been set for a return to the field for Mahala, who scored the biggest goal of his young career in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals, smashing in a goal in the final minutes to give LAFC a win over Mexico’s Cruz Azul.