It's been almost a month since LAFC last played at Banc of California Stadium. On Saturday, the Black & Gold host the New England Revolution for the first time in Club history.
Brad Friedel's side currently sits below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference. But just three points behind sixth place Montreal and with a game in hand, the Revolution know there's still a lot left to play for in the remaining seven matches of 2018. As for Bob Bradley's team, LAFC is the points adrift of its goal as well: the top spot in the Western Conference.
Both teams covet these three points, so let's have a look at the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC vs. New England Revolution:
Match The Physicality
The word is out on LAFC's style of play. Bob Bradley's team likes to use the ball on the ground and get through teams with high-tempo movements and interchanges.
It's a methodology that relies on timing, and as of late, teams have set out to disrupt LAFC's timing by getting physical early in matches. It can be as simple as a tug on the player with the ball or bodying a runner as they try to get open for a teammate. New England has the types of players that can grind opponents in just this way. So LAFC have to be prepared from the kickoff to meet the level of physicality and then fight through it.
First-year head coach Brad Friedel's key tenet for his team is pressing. It's been the identity of the Revolution from the first match of the season, and they live and die by it.
The best way to beat at team that presses is to always keep them guessing. At training on Friday, Bob Bradley said that when teams get predictable in how they play, especially out of the back, that's when the press is the most effective for the opposition. LAFC will need to vary their approach on Saturday and not let New England key in on triggers for its press. That doesn't mean abandoning the style of play that LAFC have cultivated all season. Just read the game and work in different ways in different moments to spread out New England and open up spaces for players to play in and out of.
LAFC's 54 goals this season are second best in all of MLS. An early goal would force the Revolution to have a rethink of their game plan.
New England are going to press LAFC high up the pitch and then look to drop and frustrate when the ball crosses midfield. Against NYCFC last week, New England executed the strategy perfectly. They harried NYCFC and disrupted their rhythm building from the back. In the defensive half, New Englad forced NYCFC into a high quantity of low-percentage shots. And when NYCFC thought they had enough, New England struck on the counterattack and then shut up shop.
LAFC need to find that first goal to keep the Revs from putting together a similar picture of this match. An early goal will force New England to take more chances with its press and will open up further opportunities for goals.