Los Angeles Football Club (18-6-3) enter their match Aug. 31 against the Houston Dynamo in unfamiliar territory; this is only the second time all season that the Black & Gold have lost two consecutive games in league play. LAFC didn't have much time to dwell on the back-to-back road losses in San Jose and Austin. Despite the losses, LAFC still hold a six-point lead in the Western Conference and Supporter’s Shield race over Austin FC, but with only five weeks until the end of the regular season, LAFC is looking to return to their winning ways.
REFLECTING ON AUSTIN
With short turnarounds between matches, physical recovery is the highest priority for players, but when a team follows a seven-match win streak with two consecutive losses, there must also be time for reflection. LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo did not mince words in his postgame assessment after the 4-1 loss to Austin on Aug. 26, but he says that the Club has taken three days of practice and identified and addressed the issues that led to the defeat and fully expects the players to get back on track in Houston.
"Of course, anytime things don’t go your way you tend to analyze a little more,” Cherundolo said. “We did exactly that. We identified mistakes, worked on mistakes in training and we’ll apply those tomorrow in the match against Houston. Houston is a team that has, results wise, not been positive of late. They’ve been on the road for two matches as well. They will for sure be looking to come out in this home game with a strong mentality and try to keep the points there in Houston. We’re ready for a tight and tough match."
LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, is looking to bounce back from the roughest outing of his first season as LAFC's goalkeeper.
"We’ve had time to reflect on the last week, especially the game in San Jose and Austin back-to-back,” Crepeau said. “We’ve regrouped, we saw what we did wrong. We’ve had a good few days of preparation, leading up to tomorrow in Houston. We’ve corrected the mistakes we made collectively and we need to be sharp individually in order to make the result on the road tomorrow."
CHECKING ON THE DYNAMO
LAFC came out flat against Austin on Aug. 26, and after the match, Cherundolo let the media know exactly what he thought of his club's performance after the match.
"I think we got a taste of our own medicine tonight. We got outrun, out pressed. We didn’t create as many mistakes from the opponent, and they capitalized on ours,” Cherundolo said. “There were also defensive blunders that we haven’t shown all season. There was nothing tactical on our part, it’s not that Austin played particularly well, but defensively they caused us to make some mistakes and capitalized on those mistakes. That’s how you score goals in this sport and that’s what happened [on Friday]."
LAFC now return to Texas to face the las place Club in the Western Conference. The Dynamo are on a six-match winless streak of their own, during which time the club has scored only six goals.
BALE FROM THE START
Gareth Bale made his first start for LAFC in the 4-1 loss against Austin FC, and while the result was not what Cherundolo and the Club were hoping for, the LAFC head coach said they are still trying to work on playing Bale together with LAFC’s second leading scorer Carlos Vela.
"It’s a positional thing. It depends on the moment as well as the opponent, there are many factors,” Cherundolo said. “It’s not as simple as saying when they are together this happens and when they aren’t that happens. It completely depends on the moments. Their qualities can give us better passing, more possession, some better finishing and sometimes that might mean less ability to press. [There is a sense of] give and take. It totally depends on the opponent. Sometimes [them playing together] is more effective and sometimes it’s less effective."
The burden of establishing what combinations work best for LAFC is a task laid on the shoulders of the coaching staff, but Cherundolo challenged the effort level of his players in Austin and will be looking for a higher work rate across the board when the team takes the field in Houston.
"Certainly physical output and effort, from every player, needs to be at a point where we can win games, no matter who that is," Cherundolo said. "Everyone that puts on the LAFC jersey has a responsibility to go out and win as many football games as possible. To do that, we have to run. I’m 100% positive that every player on this roster is capable of doing that."
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: SEBASTIAN MENDEZ
Midfielder Sebastian Mendez has assimilated into LAFC wonderfully since being acquired on July 19th. He's already appeared in six matches for LAFC and has played at least 25 minutes in four of his six appearances so far, and his passing percentage has never been below 82%. He has earned the coaching staff's praise for his defensive contributions and has earned the trust of his head coach in record time for a midseason acquisition.
"Mendez integrated into the team very fast. He's got a couple of national teammates on this roster, and that familiarity has helped, but he’s been in the league for awhile; He knows the guys, the guys know him. Getting him involved in games was something we did pretty early," Cherundolo said. "We're trying to find a balance in our system with our players, the combinations in which he is most effective. We are still figuring that out. But it’s been good. He’s a player we can definitely rely on and we trust. And that’s the biggest and most important part of integrating new players.”