LAFC travels to FC Dallas on Saturday looking to pick up a league-high fifth road win.
After playing to a 1-1 draw on May 5 at Banc of California Stadium, the two sides have been trending in opposite directions. LAFC has taken only four of a possible 12 points on offer, while FC Dallas, in the midst of a five-match unbeaten streak, has bagged 10 of a possible 12 points.
If the Black & Gold hope to hand FC Dallas just its second loss of the 2018 season, and first loss at home, the Club will need a near perfect night in Texas. Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match between LAFC and FC Dallas:
Mind Over Matter
It's going to be hot out there. The forecast calls for triple-digit temperatures during the day on Saturday. Add on a bit of humidity, and we're talking nasty weather for a 90-minute match.
Mandatory hydration breaks will likely be in effect on Saturday. But the players on the field will have to do their best to remain focused despite the heat. It'll be a taxing affair, in which both squads will suffer. It might come down to who can endure the suffering longer.
Keep Mauro Diaz Facing His Own Goal
The Argentine No. 10 was left on the bench the last time these two teams met. Since then he's put MLS on notice.
Diaz has six assists in his last three starts for FC Dallas. The diminutive playmaker has a habit of popping up in the space just between the opposition's backline and midfield. He enjoys being on the ball often and getting his eyes up the pitch. LAFC will want to deny the little pockets of space he likes to drift into. You need to make a real effort to frustrate his rhythm by putting him under pressure the moment he receives the ball and not letting him pick his head up.
Time To Step Up
Bob Bradley and his squad knew this day was coming for quite sometime, but now reality will set in on Saturday. The match against FC Dallas will be the first without Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman. Leading up to this match, the LAFC players didn't know what a single minute of MLS play was like without those two on the field (Tyler Miller is the only other LAFC player to play every minute of every match this season).
Bradley has made a point to not shy away the fact that the World Cup would deprive his team of some of its best players. Instead, he's used it to challenge the entire squad, saying at some point every player would be counted upon during the season.
Now's the time for the remaining players to shoulder some of the load in the absence of their captain and leading scorer. As Vela said to reporters after his final match and before joining Mexico's World Cup camp, he hopes he left the team in the best way possible and that they will be in first place when he returns.
With the likes of Lee Nguyen and Adama Diomande yet to feature from the start, as well as rookies Tristan Blackmon and Joäo Moutinho starting to find their feet in MLS, LAFC have the talent waiting in the wings. Couple that with the leadership of veterans like Benny Feilhaber, Steven Beitashour, and Jordan Harvey, and this is a deeper team than some might think.
But the time to step up begins now.