The third time hasn't been a charm for LAFC in 2019.
On Wednesday, the Black & Gold take on the San Jose Earthquakes for the third time this season. LAFC won both previous contest by a combined score of 8-1 - one of the matches took place in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16.
The Earthquakes aren't the first team LAFC has faced three times this season and won the opening two meetings. Against the Portland Timbers, LAFC won both regular-season matches before facing their Pacific Northwest rivals in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup. In that third match, LAFC was defeated its one and only time at home this season - LAFC is still undefeated in MLS play at home.
So, despite LAFC's historic success against SJ (4-0-0 in all-time in all competitions), Wednesday is a difficult task.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC vs. San Jose:
Be On Time
Speaking to the media this week, Bob Bradley was to the point. When you play the Earthquakes man-to-man style, the impetus is on finding space.
Matias Almeyda's team is going to stay tight to their markers all over the field. LAFC players can count on less time and space on the ball. But there are ways of working that to your advantage.
With San Jose chasing marks all over the field, LAFC can spread the opponent and create areas to play into. It's imperative the Black & Gold are not stagnant though once they move into space. Players have to arrive and move the ball at the right times. By receiving in space on the run, LAFC can disrupt and disorganize San Jose's man-marking system. But if you simply move into space and wait, expect an opponent to be ready to feast on your first touch.
The best way to describe San Jose is frenetic. They're willing to overcommit all over the pitch as long as it is done with pace and energy.
This style forces players to be keyed in from the opening whistle and in all moments. That means even an offensive set-piece deep in SJ territory can hurt LAFC if they aren't focused.
The Earthquakes are going to be all run and gun in this match. LAFC has to be aware that at any moment the SJ could be off and running. You can't switch off at any moment, even when the ball has gone out of play.
Have A Plan
San Jose is just waiting for that one moment. The one time a player is crowded out, takes a bad touch, or doesn't know where the next pass is.
LAFC works on finding solutions and providing options on the ball every day in training. Against SJ, they'll have their ability to function as a collective put to the test. Beating a man-to-man style takes coordinated movements and decision-making. LAFC has to know where the next pass is and when to drive space to force the Earthquakes to scramble to recover.