Five minutes into LAFC's match in Colorado, Diego Rossi had a gilt-edged chance. Just like he did in Chicago.
And just like in Chicago, Rossi wouldn't be able to convert. But this time, his teammates picked him up. LAFC went on to defeat the Colorado Rapids 3-0, clinching a spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in the Club's inaugural season.
- Colorado Rapids 0-3 LAFC
There was a lot to like from this match. Let's get right into the takeaways from the Club's historic night in Colorado:
A Similar Start But Different
I don't want to keep hammering on Rossi's miss other than to say, as much as this match started just like the trip to Chicago, it was so different.
From the opening whistle, LAFC pressed Colorado and were first to nearly every ball. The reactions after possession was lost were much sharper as well. In Chicago, the team looked sluggish or uninterested in winning back possession quickly. Against the Rapids it was almost a complete 180-degree turn. That pressure kept the ball in Colorado's half early and eventually led to the set piece that resulted in the first goal.
Another Goal Off A Corner? Yeah, Another Goal Off A Corner
Walker Zimmerman and LAFC really saved the best for last when it came to corner kicks this season. That's now three goals off of corners in the last three matches. Again, come playoffs, set pieces can be a real weapon. So LAFC peaking with their dead-ball deliveries at just the right time.
Dio Runs Colorado
Adama Diomande's last goals for LAFC were nearly three months ago. Injuries played a big part in that slump, but he also got away from some of the things that worked so well when he was ripping apart defenses for seven goals in his first nine MLS matches.
It's his movement that sets the table for the striker. Both goals came from timely runs off the shoulder of the defender and into areas of space that kept his body between the ball and the opposition. And both were tucked away with ease.
His first goal is especially nice. Lee Nguyen is in space and Dio is stretching the defense with a diagonal run when he recognizes Rapids defender Axel Sjoberg's step towards the ball. Dio's not in a bad pocket of space with his initial run, but that recognition and adjustment to the area vacated behind Sjoberg makes all the difference. From there, two defenders are in no man's land and Dio has a clear lane to Tim Howard's goal.
Dio joins Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi as one of three double-digit goalscorers on LAFC.
Patience Is A Virtue
LAFC love to attack. Sometimes they love it a little too much though. Almost to the point where they leave themselves vulnerable by pushing the ball to bad areas of the pitch instead of being patient.
Against Colorado, LAFC was much more thoughtful in possession and the Rapids just couldn't hang. It was the simple and mature football Bob Bradley likes to see from his team. They moved the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, made the next pass, and found the open man. That patient approach gave the LAFC attackers time to measure their runs and it also provided a bit of rest to the team in the high altitude, which facilitated LAFC's press and counterpress in moments. And towards the end of the match, Colorado just couldn't get the ball off of LAFC.
Bradley will like that just as much as the three goals.
Lee And Benny Boss Colorado
On a team with so many technically sound players, Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen can get lost in the shuffle sometimes. But against Colorado they were absolute bosses.
Look at that beautiful balance. On the left is Benny's pass map. Lee's is on the right. The two worked so well in releasing the other into the attacking third and balancing play. When Lee went, Benny was there. And vice versa.
Nguyen's ability to be a playmaker from deep takes so much pressure off the likes of Carlos Vela. It allows Vela to move closer to goal and to go looking for the ball on the run, instead of being an outlet for the first pass. That's when LAFC are the most effective.
As for Benny, he's been a bit of an unsung hero this season for LAFC. Put anyone next to him and he makes the team go. Benny pressures opponents on both sides of the ball, is always an option to teammates in the buildup, and has been consistently good all year. He's transformed himself from a free-wheeling playmaker to a disciplined box-to-box midfielder. His reading of the game and ability to help balance play in both a midfield-three and band of two gives Bob Bradley a lot of flexibility tactically.