Break time is over. Welcome to the stretch run, everybody.
LAFC dives back into MLS regular-season play after the All-Star Break with a cross-country trip to face the New York Red Bulls. It's the farthest trip of the season for the Club, and it comes just days before the U.S. Open Cup semifinal match in Houston on August 8. But with Western Conference challengers queueing up behind the Black & Gold in recent weeks, and only one win in its last five matches, its time to focus on the task at hand.
Let's take a look at LAFC's trip to Red Bull Arena on Sunday:
Where To Watch/Listen
LAFC At New York Red Bulls, August 5 at 3 pm PT
TV: FS1, FOX Deportes
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
The Red Bulls had their three-match winning streak snapped with a 3-2 loss at home to Columbus on July 28. It was only the second loss of the season at home for the Red Bulls. With eight wins at Red Bull Arena in 2018, they are second only to crosstown rivals NYCFC in points earned at home this season.
What The Players Are Saying
Jordan Harvey on the not looking past Sunday's match: "It's a fine line. We're in a good standing in the league. We could be better. I think we have dropped points here and there, so you have to be weary of that. But then, we have a huge opportunity midweek against Houston. We just played there. I thought we had a really good performance there, up until the last two minutes. Overall, we're looking at it as a two-game swing here. We have the depth and the personnel to be able to pull that off."
Latif Blessing on putting past results behind him: "It's a game, so just forget. We just continue our game. We have more games to play, so we have to forget that. I have to put in energy. The coach just believes in me. When I am selected to play, I have to put everything I have into playing."
LAFC Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3): Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman, Steven Beitashour; Eduard Atuesta, Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen; Latif Blessing, Adama Diomande, Carlos Vela.
What To Watch For
Can LAFC Reverse The West's Jinx Against The Red Bulls?: The New York Red Bulls love playing teams from the Western Conference. Teams from out West have lost seven of eight matches against Red Bulls this season (Real Salt Lake remain the only team from the Western Conference to take points off the Red Bulls this season - a 1-0 in Utah in the second match of the season). LAFC are 4-1-2 against the Eastern Conference in its inaugural season and they are second in MLS in road wins this season.
A Clash Of Styles: These two sides are at their best when they are on opposite sides of the spectrum in possession. LAFC divide and conquer with the ball at their feet, while the Red Bulls force the ball at opposing sides and feast on mistakes. With Chris Armas taking over after the departure of Jesse Marsch to Europe, the Red Bulls have attempted to be a more possession/passing oriented side to mixed results. Against Columbus, they tried a patience style, building from the back, and were down 3-0 at half. Reverting to their more frenetic pressing style in the second half, they nearly got a point out of the match in a 3-2 loss. Will the Red Bulls stick to what got them to this point or continue to try to add a new dimension against LAFC?
How Does LAFC Close Out The Match?: I suspect this is the only storyline that matters to most LAFC fans at this moment. The failure to hold a two-goal lead against the Galaxy at home just days before the All-Star Break still stings. And even the players and coaching staff have admitted it's a concern. On Thursday after training, Jordan Harvey basically put it this way: "That has been a focus this week, and it will be moving forward just because we are a team that is going to score goals and get a lot of leads. We are going to see this scenario unfold, definitely in the future, so we need to be able to keep the clean sheet and lock teams down." I think that's probably the most succinct way you can look at it. LAFC have to find that balance between getting their goals and controlling other teams. To this point, its been all about goals controlling games. Now the Club needs to find that other way, be it shrinking the field or locking in defensively, to close out matches.