About once a week, Bob Bradley gets asked by a reporter what it's like coaching an expansion team. And he always has the same answer.
I'm paraphrasing, but it basically goes like this. There are only good teams and bad teams. Nobody cares if you are an expansion team. If you're good, then you're good. If you're not, then...
You get the point. There's no in-between.
But as of late, Bradley's team has too often found themselves in that chasm between good and bad. Generating a multitude of opportunities over the last three matches, LAFC has failed to deliver the final product on numerous occasions. The result being just two points from three matches, when they arguably could have taken maximum points in all three.
"The good news is that I think we’ve created a lot of good advantages and we’re still improving on the execution, quality of the pass, and the movement," Bradley said, speaking about his team's missed opportunities in the 1-1 draw with D.C. United. "Sometimes it’s the idea, sometimes it’s the execution. It’s just part of our development as a team."
In the draw against United, LAFC looked in control early and should have had a goal or two before finding a breakthrough via Diego Rossi in the 39th minute. A red card to Dejan Jaković in stoppage time of the first half changed the complexion of the match, but the Black & Gold still had its chances to add a second before D.C. equalized in the 84th minute.
"If there’s 10 chances, there’s probably 10 answers," Bradley said when asked how the team needs to finish its opportunities.
"You’re constantly looking for advantages. If you play quickly, and the opportunity to go forward is there, you don’t want to miss it. But at the same time, if you can’t get to goal directly, there has got to be times where you connect passes and look for the next opportunity. We’ve worked on both sides of that."
As Bradley likes to say, you don't get extra points for being an expansion team. You're either good or you're bad. With 21 points from 12 matches, LAFC are second in the Western Conference. The gap behind the Club in standings has shrunk to just one point over the last three weeks though.
With a road test against a one-loss FC Dallas team looming this Saturday, LAFC needs to find ways to convert those advantages into goals.
There's no more room for in-between.
News & Notes
- Walker Zimmerman was back with the Club on Wednesday after taking part in the USMNT's 3-0 win over Bolivia. In that match, Zimmerman scored his first international goal and looked confident marshaling a young backline. Asked about the performance of his center back, Bradley said: "I was happy for Walker. I think in this last stretch here, he’s played very well. He has done a lot of little things better. He’s stepped up and closed people down, his reactions have been faster, his passing forward has been better, and I think most of those things have been better."
- Benny Feilhaber is the most likely candidate to wear the captain's armband while Laurent Ciman is away with Belgium. Bradley said he hadn't thought that far ahead when asked about the captaincy, but said he was leaning towards Feilhaber.
- Against D.C., third-overall pick Tristan Blackmon got his first start for LAFC after seeing sparse minutes in the previous 11 matches. Much of the talk after the match revolved around red cards and VAR, but at training Bradley got a chance to comment more on the rookie's first start: "For a first start, I think he had a few touches early that weren’t great and a foul right away. But as the half moved on, he got forward, he got sharper with his pass, and for the most part defensively his positioning and reactions were good. All in all, I would say it was a good first start."
- Blackmon took the spot of Steven Beitshour at right back in the D.C. match. Beitashour, who started every match prior, was dealing with an injury to his left hamstring. Despite Beitashour not dressing for the D.C. match, Bradley was confident on Wednesday that the defender would be able to contribute to the FC Dallas match on Saturday.