Speaking with reporters outside of the locker room following LAFC’s historic first win in Club history, Bob Bradley weighed the good and the bad of his squad’s performance. Pleased with the end result, Bradley admitted at times it wasn’t always the prettiest process on the field, but a few players did stand out in the eyes of their coach. One of them being midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.
“That’s a great win. First 25 minutes I actually thought the football was pretty good. After that, it was more about fighting and defending, but when you’re starting out a team you have to learn different types of games,” Bradley said after the match. “A lot of guys gave big efforts. I thought Tyler Miller was very good in goal. Mark-Anthony Kaye, first game in the league, does a very good job holding things together in the midfield.”
Partnering Benny Feilhaber as part of a band of two in front of the LAFC defense, Kaye’s energetic presence epitomized his coach’s picture of how LAFC should attempt to boss the game on both sides of the ball.
In Bradley’s LAFC team, midfielders are expected to be able to play out of defense with quick, incisive passes while providing cover over a large swath of the pitch. Kaye’s 25 successful passes in the opposition’s half equaled that of his midfield partner Feilhaber and were second only to Carlos Vela on the team. His passing map shows the passes weren’t simple sideways or backwards movements for the most part either. And it was Kaye’s finding of Vela in space 11 minutes into the match that led to Vela threading through Diego Rossi for the game-winning goal.
In addition to his distribution from midfield, Kaye’s work rate around the pitch helped ease the onslaught of Seattle’s pressure, as the Sounders pressed forward late in the match, and provided a spring board to the LAFC attack. Of Kaye’s nine ball recoveries (yellow triangels), five were in the opponent’s half, resulting in the quick transition from defense to offense that Bradley preaches in training. Kaye’s smart pressing also paid dividends as the midfielder won two of his three tackles (green triangles) in Sounders’ half.
“I pride myself on being able to break up plays and stuff like that,” Kaye said after the match. “Bob has also spoken to me about not diving in because it leaves the team exposed. So it’s just choosing the right moments for when to go into a tackle and moving your feet. Stuff like that.”
If there’s one criticism of Kaye’s match against Seattle, it was the few instances in which he was careless with his distribution deep in LAFC’s half. In his passing map, you can see three incidents in red where the midfielder gave away the ball 35 yards are less from his own goal. While on the day, the LAFC defense led by Laurent Ciman was able to deal with the added pressure of those giveaways, it’s not a habit Kaye will want to get into.
“Everything could be better to be honest. It was a good first performance but I have build on this. I think my passing could be better and just being aware of what is around me,” Kaye said. “That’s just going to take time. It was good to start today and see where I am at the moment but it needs to get better.”
That lack of sharpness notwithstanding though, Kaye’s understanding with Feilhaber in the LAFC midfield clicked at the right time. The 23-year-old’s strong debut was a massive contribution to the first win in LAFC history.
Mark-Anthony Kaye Key Stats Against The Seattle Sounders
- 25 successful passes in opposition’s half
- 3 tackles won
- 2 headed clearances
- 1 take on
- 2 aerial duels won
- Secondary assist on Rossi’s goal