A couple of things right from the start. LAFC's match at Vancouver on Wednesday will be its first midweek match of the season. And the second thing, it's against a team with a familiar face at the helm in Marc Dos Santos.
Both those items will make up a lot of the narrative around this match. With LAFC unbeaten through seven matches to start the season, how will the team cope with the start of congested fixtures in MLS play? And speaking of unbeaten, does Marc Dos Santos have enough inside knowledge to put together a plan to stop a Black & Gold side that is setting records in goals scored to start a season?
Those would be the two biggest questions to ask heading into Wednesday night's match. So, with that fresh in your mind, here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC's trip to face the Vancouver Whitecaps:
I already mentioned the midweek match - you didn't expect me to make a big deal of it and then just drop it, did you?
Midweek matches are a test of a team's focus and depth. We've already seen LAFC showcase some of its depth thus far in 2019 - think Latif Blessing as both a right back and center mid this season and Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez trading the center forward position back and forth. In Vancouver, and with a back-to-back against fellow unbeaten Seattle on deck, Bob Bradley will need to do a bit of man-management.
It's an opportunity for players that have worked hard in training to show they can be counted on. Bradley has already noted that the level of play in training has been higher this season. So, it's no wonder LAFC are in the position they are in with high levels of competition on a daily basis. Now is the time for those players to meet the challenge and show they can bring that level when points are on the line.
Timing Is Everything
Despite being unbeaten through seven matches, there have been times when LAFC has looked less than fluid in its football. Days when the team isn't sharp in its touches, runs, and passes, it can feel like it's playing through quicksand.
Much of that is predicated on timing. Bob Bradley's side has come up against some resilient sides focused on compressing areas for LAFC to play in. To counteract that, the Black & Gold all need to be on the same page. When moments arise, the pass needs to be there on time and in the right location. That doesn't mean forcing it. If a window closes, another run should be on offer. But players will need to use the right number of touches to assess and execute when advantages present themselves.
After spending the inaugural season with the Club, Marc Dos Santos has a pretty good idea of the style of play LAFC brings to a match. But with that in mind, he'll also know his knowledge can only take him so far.
A lot of coaches have a pretty good idea of what LAFC is trying to do week in and week out. But defending and countering it isn't about simply knowing how LAFC likes to play.
Decision making is a large part of what separates Bob Bradley's team. LAFC imposes a style of play on opponents that forces them to deal with numerous options on the pitch. In those moments, it is not just the player on the ball that has to make decisions. Runs should be met by secondary runs into the vacated spaces. Players need to decide when to be close to their marks and when to come off them to either receive the ball or open the area for a teammate. And that's just a start.
So, LAFC will need to go to Vancouver knowing they are up against a head coach that understands them pretty well. But that doesn't mean the ideas and decision making on the day can't create advantages for LAFC to capitalize on.