It's an important week for LAFC right out the gate from the All-Star Break. First, a matchup with the New York Red Bulls, in a match the Black & Gold need to generate some momentum heading into the U.S. Open Cup semifinal in midweek.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match against the Red Bulls:
Break The Press
The Red Bulls have been cultivating their high-press style to great effect over the last few years. It's not uncommon to see seven red shirts racing into the opponents half the second a ball changes possession in a Red Bulls match. For teams that are nervy on the ball, this tactic is terrifying. And it usually results in the Red Bulls taking the ball back in dangerous areas more often than not.
LAFC aren't the type of side to get flustered on the ball though. Bob Bradley has drilled his side on playing out of the back and playing for each other - by that I mean, passing and moving into areas that give teammates options on the ball. And if you can get through Red Bulls initial wave of pressure, there are spaces to attack. It can be a high risk, high reward strategy if you don't vary the ways you go about it. So sometimes, you can get your angles right and other times you have to go vertical. But if the LAFC midfielders can get into those pockets of space and pull the Red Bulls all over the pitch, while Carlos Vela and Adama Diomande can hold up play in isolated areas at times, LAFC should be able to create chances on their terms.
Watch That Man
Bradley Wright-Phillips became the fastest man to 100 goals in MLS history with his hard-charging solo effort against D.C. United on July 25. What's most impressive about Wright-Phillips is his ability to score even when nothing seems on. To get his 100th, he drove into the D.C. United penalty area, and despite a defender hanging with him the entire way, managed to open up just a yard of space to sneak a shot between the defenders legs and just inside the near post. That's a quintessential BWP goal. So LAFC will need to be attentive to him at all times because if he is getting touches on the ball from 12 yards and in, even if there is a wall of defenders in front of him, Wright-Phillips is still finding the net one way or another.
Maintain Focus Late
I'm not singling out Walker Zimmerman here to put him down. Because I could just as easily pick out a few other players that have made similar mistakes in matches that LAFC have dropped points. But through 80 minutes against the Galaxy, Zimmerman was near flawless. He won every challenge with Zlatan Ibrahimović, to the point the Swedish international was more often than not seen walking around the pitch and apoplectic whenever a Galaxy attack broke down. But on a ball Zimmerman clears with ease a thousand times over, the LAFC central defender invites pressure, misses, and the Galaxy score. That was symptomatic of the entire team. And that dip in focus invites teams forward. Whether you're a believer in the momentum of matches or not, when mistakes like that pile up, teams are going to make you pay at some point. LAFC will need a concerted 90 minute effort if they hope to leave Red Bull Arena with points on Sunday.