For a second straight week, LAFC stumbled on the road losing 5-0 to Atlanta United. This was a very different match than the 4-3 loss in the derby to the Galaxy, so let's get right into it:
Video assistant referee. It's here to end debates by getting incorrect calls right. So of course, it just adds fuel to the fire.
Seconds into the match, Atlanta were down a man after defender Chris McCann laid out Benny Feilhaber with a late and heavy tackle. But in the first use of VAR in LAFC's history, referee Ted Unkel changed his decision to a yellow card, allowing McCann back onto the pitch. The right call? Maybe. Remember, VAR is suppose to only overturn clear mistakes. But don't worry, there's more.
Atlanta attacker Miguel Almirón goes over in the box as LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman leaves his feet, and the ball goes out for a corner. Or does it? The referee consults VAR once more, and penalty. After another glance, Zimmerman does look to make contact, but Almirón looks like he may have been going down prior to losing the ball. Clear evidence once more? Not so sure.
The Edge In Possession
The complexion of this match was very different than any LAFC had been a part of to this point. Out-possessed in the previous three matches, LAFC ended the match with 59 percent of the possession.
Atlanta put in a very disciplined performance though, despite being without two starting defenders. By sitting deep and refusing to let the game get stretched, Atlanta deferred possession to LAFC. And the tactic paid off.
LAFC probed for long stretches but rarely got behind the Atlanta defense. And when it did look like LAFC was getting too much of the upper hand with their possession down a goal, Tata Martino removed forward Héctor Villalba in favor of another midfielder in Kevin Kratz midway through the second half. Kratz clogged the middle of the pitch even more, LAFC managed just one shot on target despite all the possession, and Atlanta killed them on the break.
Missing That Killer Pass
All the possession in the world won't do you any good if you can't find that final pass. It was really all that was missing today for LAFC for a most of the match.
Take a peek at LAFC's passing chart in the final third. There's a lot of red in there. Down 1-0 and pressing for a goal, you need just one moment to unlock the opposing defense and turn the match on its head. LAFC weren't able to find that final pass, and they paid dearly for it.
Parkhurst Dominates For Atlanta
Much of the reason why LAFC couldn't find that killer pass came down to one man: Michael Parkhurst.
The center back was huge for Atlanta in this match. A look at his defensive contributions shows two tackles won, five interceptions, four clearances, and eight recoveries... and this was while playing in a back three with Miles Robinson. Parkhurst's marshaling of the Atlanta defense on Saturday was Man of the Match worthy for a team that scored five goals. It was that good.
Unraveling At The End
Two penalties conceded in the span of four minutes, a red card, and three goals after the 88th minute. Things got really sideways for LAFC at the end of the match, and you have to wonder a little bit about the mentality out there.
We've already touched on VAR, and maybe you can blame it on that. But after last week, you've got to imagine Bradley will have stern words with his team about finishing matches. There's no way this game should have ended 5-0, as the scoreline really doesn't show how even the two teams were for much of the match. In the end it counts for little, as a loss is a loss, but over a long season, as Bob says, "you've got to be resilient."