Here we are in uncharted territory for LAFC once again. After winning its first-ever U.S. Open Cup match, LAFC faces Sacramento Republic FC with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC's Round of 16 clash with Republic FC:
Don't Let Them Grow Into The Match
Sacramento earned its way into the Round of 16 with a 2-1 extra time win over the Seattle Sounders. And if we're being honest, Seattle was lucky to push that match into extra time.
With Republic FC knowing they can go toe-to-toe with an MLS side, the last thing you want to do is give them even more confidence. LAFC need to exert control on this match early. For Bob Bradley's squad that means controlling the tempo with possession, moving Republic FC defenders with sharp, quick passing, and putting the USL side on their heels with incisive runs. Don't let Sacramento get the slightest bit comfortable, because they've proven once they have that confidence, they can be dangerous.
Build From The Back With Caution
Sacramento's biggest weapon against the Sounders was their press. They preyed off turnovers in the opposing third of the field, getting a free run at the Seattle backline.
LAFC are adamant about building from the back. While it gets the players into a rhythm and fosters the little interchanges the squad works on in training, defenders and midfielders will need to be precise in their passing and work to create angles for their teammates. Breaking the press with possession will open spaces, but the risk is always lurking.
Set Pieces: Defend 'Em And Take Advantage
Coming off the mini-break for the World Cup, I'm sure the players got plenty of time in front of their TVs with the world's biggest tournament on tap. If they took one thing away from the World Cup, it should be the danger of set pieces.
A team can look out of ideas in open play, then a foul in a dangerous area and you're behind a goal. Don't let your control of a match slip because of a bad decision or loss of focus in a dead-ball situation. And conversely, when you get the opportunity to put the other side under pressure from set pieces, LAFC have to be sharp.