Revolution Score Late On LAFC 180915 IMG

Are Late Goals A Problem For LAFC?

It depends who you ask and what stats you value.

That's my direct response to this posts title. 

On Saturday at Banc of California Stadium, the Revolution stole a point from LAFC thanks to a 82nd minute goal from Brandon Bye. After the match, New England head coach Brad Friedel had this to say about LAFC.

"We wanted to get to halftime at nil-nil or one-nil up," Friedel said. "Which we did because we know they concede a lot of goals and a lot of chances in the second half."

So clearly Friedel resides in the "late goals are a problem for LAFC" camp. But simply saying it after a recent occurrence doesn't make it so. It's just a form of recency bias. What do the numbers actually flesh out for LAFC when it comes to conceding goals in the second half and beyond.

In 2018, LAFC have conceded 43 goals to the opposition - tied for fifth fewest in the Western Conference. Of those 43 goals, 28 goals or 65 percent have been conceded in the second half. Not good, right? Well, yes and no.

Turns out, conceding goals in the second half are par for course in MLS. Not a single MLS side conceded less in the second half than it does in the first - only Sporting KC and New York Red Bulls are even close with the same amount of goals conceded in each half. In fact, LAFC are one of 11 sides that concede 60 percent or more of their goals in the second half - oddly enough, New England has actually conceded the same amount of second-half goals as LAFC (28).

Of course, second half goals don't tell the entire story of the late goals conceded by LAFC. A closer breakdown of the goals the Black & Gold have given up late in matches shows 12 goals conceded from the 81st minute on. That's a stat you might want to latch onto if you agree with Friedel.

But consider this: Three of those goals came in a 5-0 loss to Atlanta after the result was very much no longer in doubt. Another goal after the 81st minute came in the 4-2 win over Toronto with LAFC leading 3-1. And finally, two of the 12 goals came in one match, the 2-2 draw against Houston in July - admittedly, one of the roots of this entire "LAFC gives up too many late goals" argument.

So with half of the 12 goals in the 81st minute or later coming in just three matches, a better measure of how late goals have hurt LAFC might be points dropped as a result of those goals. Doing the math on that, and including Saturday's 1-1 draw, LAFC have dropped eight points from winning positions as the result of opponent's goals in the 80th minute or later. Seems high, until you consider Atlanta United, the Supporters' Shield frontrunner, has dropped seven points from the same criteria. 

Not sure we're getting any closer to the answer. But maybe that's the point. It's not as black and white as the original question seems. Especially when you consider LAFC are in the upper ranks of clean sheets with eight -  in other words, LAFC shutouts its opponent completely in over 28 percent of its matches.

None of this back and forth is to say LAFC are free and clear in this regard. Late goals have hurt the Club's points total. Those eight points could have LAFC challenging for the Supporters' Shield with Atlanta. But don't let the recency of the last result lead you to believe the season has been an epidemic of late goals and there's been no improvement since LAFC took a 2-0 lead into the 94th minute of the aforementioned match in Houston.

In this League, opportunities are going to arise in the second half, and statistically, all teams are capitalizing on them to a higher degree than in the opening 45 minutes. But it's never as simple as just fixing one flaw, be it adding a defensive midfielder or bunkering with the lead. It's the result of a series of actions that sometimes go your way and sometimes they don't.

LAFC are still learning the best way to close out matches for the way they play. And sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. But more often than not, LAFC are finding a way to get results to the tune of three wins in their last five.

Whether its late or early, they'll take it.