No hyperbole necessary for this match. Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinal is the most important match in LAFC history so far, as the Black & Gold are just one win from the first final in Club history.
Also looking to reach its first Open Cup final are the Houston Dynamo, who stand in LAFC's way tonight. Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC's semifinal contest with the Dynamo:
Control Houston's Wing Play
Houston makes no secret of how they like to play. With Alberth Elis on one flank and Romell Quioto on the other, the Dyanmo like to soak up pressure and then spring attacks with either of their wingers.
Both Elis and Quioto like the ball on their feet and the chance to run at opposing backlines. They create havoc wide and by forcing defenders to drop back in respect of their dribbling ability, creating openings for center forward Mauro Manotas and attacking midfielder Tomás Martínez. LAFC need to control the flanks and not allow Houston the chance to get out and run at the backline unimpeded.
Get Carlos Involved Early
With just one pass against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, Carlos Vela showcased just how devastating he can be when he's on the ball in the offensive third of the pitch. But unfortunately for LAFC, his touches that match were few and far between. In the semifinal, Vela needs to be on the ball and pulling the strings of the attack. Some of that comes down to LAFC maintaining possession through midfield, allowing Vela to stay higher up the pitch. And some of it, relies on Vela's willingness to move into open spaces to dictate the game. He'll need to be active against Houston. That doesn't necessarily mean scoring, but the more he is on the ball, the more end roads LAFC will find to the Houston goal.
Leaders Need To Lead
Bob Bradley said it before the match, it all comes do mentality. Semifinals are tight contests that hinge on just a few moments in a match. In search of the Club's first final, the leaders of the team, and those guys like Benny Feilhaber and Walker Zimmerman that have been in these positions before, need to lead by example and keep their teammates focused. The difference between playing for a trophy and failing one step short could come down to players' ability to keep their nerve in the big moment.