Before we go any further. Let's agree on one thing.
Last-minute winners in home openers at Banc of California Stadium never get old.
In consecutive seasons, LAFC has snatched three points at the absolute death. It was only last year, so I know you haven't forgotten the Laurent Ciman free kick against Seattle. And now, you can add Adama Diomande's top corner finish in the 90+4 minute to that pantheon of memorable winning goals in home openers.
- LAFC 2-1 Sporting KC
Unequivocally, the match against Sporting KC on Sunday night was one of the better I've seen in MLS. And definitely, the best I've seen LAFC be a part of. You can take your blowout wins. Save the golazos. Give me two teams with a resolute sense of what they are trying to accomplish on the pitch and going toe-to-toe with their absolute best any day.
After the match, Bob Bradley mentioned SKC and rivalry in the same sentence. Some rivalries are born out of proximity. Others come from bad blood. And some are both. But for MLS, an LAFC-SKC rivalry born out of two teams that know how to use the ball, and use it well, is probably the best advertisement for the league. Produce match like that every week and people will take notice, not just here, but around the world.
Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 2-1 win over SKC:
Cat And Mouse... And The Press
Speaking of teams that know what they are doing and don't back down. The first 10 minutes or so of this match was all cat and mouse for me.
Two teams that love to have the ball. Two teams that build from the back. Two teams that want to pressure opponents into mistakes. Rinse and repeat.
The opening of this match was an exercise in pressing high and building through the press by both teams. Each team was unwilling to compromise. And each team stumbled at times. But neither was willing to give in.
That tactical battle was a microcosm of what this match was and what made it so great. In some ways, it began as the immovable object versus the unstoppable force. And some might find that as boring. But from a pure football perspective, it was fascinating to see two MLS sides with real styles and ideas try to exert their will on one another and do it at a high level.
This isn't a nod to the yellow cards that piled up throughout this match - we even got the rare MLS double-yellow! It's about two teams that were all in from the opening whistle to the final whistle.
There wasn't a single moment of respite watching this match. SKC started the brighter of the two sides with the goal in the 16th minute and pushed for a second right away. But LAFC righted itself and countered with a golden opportunity through Carlos Vela.
Just like that though, momentum seemed to shift with each attack. Neither side was willing to compromise and both were resilient in defense. LAFC countered SKC right out of the interval with a deft strike from Diego Rossi, and once again, SKC turned things up a notch just as LAFC looked like they might pull away.
That back-and-forth kept this match on a knife's edge until the very end.
Here To Compete
Every great team has a couple of things going for them. First, they have an idea of how they want to play and create advantages in games. Second, they capitalize on those advantages in big moments. But it's getting from the first point to the second that's the hardest when you come up against another good team.
That thing that connects those two points in your side's willingness to compete.
Teams with a mentality to compete for every play and for their teammates usually bridge the gap from their ideas to execution in the face of adversity. Against SKC, LAFC's mentality was at its peak. Bob Bradley mentioned it a few times in his postmach press conference. You need to have an extra edge in matches like that. It separates teams in the scoreline and at the end of the season, it separates good teams from great teams.
At times last year, LAFC lacked that mentality. Sometimes they still got a result. But in the toughest matches, you have to face challenges head-on with a real desire to see things out no matter what's in front of you. This match was LAFC's finest hour in that regard.
Bob Bradley has been at the helm almost more times than he can count on his birthday. And as far as he remembers, it's always been a bad day.
So, why not end this by saying, happy 61st birthday to Bob. For once, enjoy the three points.