Let's get the obvious out of the way. Nobody likes losing 3-0. Whether it's preseason, regular season, playoffs, or what have you.
But it is still preseason.
LAFC's loss to San Jose on Saturday was not ideal. It was also not a match where the scoreline told the entire story.
Fair play to San Jose, they came out the gates full of energy and running. They gave LAFC little time to think on the ball, and when they created turnovers, they got forward quickly. That direct style caused the Black & Gold some problems in defensive transition, then a double deflection got the scoring started for the Quakes.
As LAFC tried to cope, San Jose doubled-down on its approach and then doubled the lead. LAFC just wasn't able to find a breakthrough, despite growing into the match.
Again, despite the loss, this wasn't a complete throw-away performance - it might even be the just the type of match LAFC needed in preseason (more on that to come). Here are the takeaways from LAFC's penultimate match of the 2019 preseason:
San Jose's All-Action Style
If you've paid any attention to San Jose this preseason, then you've surely heard talk of Matias Almeyda changing the culture. In fact, it's probably all you've heard, as he's had his team tucked away from prying eyes in Cancun for most of the preseason.
On Saturday, we got to an up-close look at one of the most important tenets of Almeyda's game. San Jose had constant pressure on the ball. Almeyda encourages his players to seek out duels all over the pitch and almost has a 1-to-1 marking system in place. And when one player is bypassed, another is dispatched to harry the ball carrier.
San Jose doesn't want to merely take the ball off of you, either. They want to dislodge it any way possible and aren't afraid to get physical.
In some respects, that's the perfect opponent for LAFC with the start of the season in sight. Last year, teams felt they could bully the Black & Gold. A disruptive style and high-tempo release in transition going forward was the preferred gameplan of a lot of opponents. Some matches LAFC coped and found end roads. In others, they let the physical side of the match force them to deviate from the things they do well.
It was a good example of the way many teams are going to try to find success against LAFC. And despite the negative scoreline, in the second half, Bob Bradley's team started to find ways through San Jose. Unfortunately, they didn't find the back of the net to have anything to show for it.
As Mark-Anthony Kaye continues his progress to full fitness, I can't help but notice how he's changed.
It's not something you can quantify, as much as it's the eye test. Since returning to the pitch, the midfielder has embraced a bigger role. He continues to make incremental progress with each passing game but it's also his demeanor on the pitch. His mentality appears more steely. He's feisty. And I'm all about a fired up Mark-Anthony Kaye.
I had to the chance to ask him about it a few days before the match. He told me last season at times he felt he was just happy to be on the pitch. He would do the things he knew he could and would stay within himself. This year, he's determined to take on more. And it's becoming more apparent.
Against San Jose, Kaye started as the deepest midfielder in a group of three. He didn't shy from the physical side of the match and did well to cycle possession to open areas of the field in a few instances. His touch, both in collecting the ball and passing, is still a work in progress, as is his fitness. But in 45 minutes today, he stood out in his ability to influence the center of the pitch.
Go On, Peter-Lee
I wouldn't call it a surprise because he's been performing well in training, but Peter-Lee Vassell's start today made me take notice. The rookie went the full 90 minutes against San Jose, and with San Jose challenging every play, this was a great match for him to learn from.
In the early going, I thought Vassell was receiving the ball too close to his marker. San Jose players were all too happy to body the young midfielder before playing the ball and it was working early. But as the match went on, Vassell started creating the extra yard he needed to pick his head up and find a pass. And in the first half, he was one of the few players trying to slip passes from dangerous central areas behind the Quakes defense.
Not everything Vassell tried came off on Saturday. But the ideas were there. He's willing to influence games in tight spaces and doesn't shy from passes in the middle of the pitch. With the tackles flying, Vassell grew into the match, where other rookies might pull back. It was an encouraging sign from the young midfielder.
Finish Your Chances
The 3-0 scoreline might flatter San Jose a bit, but they did the most important thing LAFC failed to do. They finished their chances.
There was more than a few gilt-edged opportunities for LAFC in this match. When you're chasing a match, you've got to find ways to take full advantage. And I don't think I'm talking out of turn when I say, you'd expect better from a few of the players out there with the chances on offer - they'd probably be the first to admit it too, so I won't single them out.
As the ideas continue to get better going forward, and players get on the end of those kinds of chances, it's imperative they finish. LAFC thrives on putting teams under pressure with the ball. Without goals as the end product though, opponents will feel comfortable simply bodying LAFC and disrupting its rhythm.