The 2019 MLS season is flying into top gear. After a historic inaugural season, LAFC returned for Year Two with raised expectations and unfinished business. To prepare you for the long season, we're taking a look at LAFC's squad from top to bottom. Read our previous profiles on the defense, midfield, and goalkeepers.
Figuring It Out Together
I might be the one writing this in-depth look at the LAFC attack, but they're doing a more than a decent job of writing their own story on the pitch and in record books in 2019.
Through six matches to start 2019, LAFC scored 19 goals, breaking the MLS record for goal scoring to start a season. Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela had 13 goals between them in that time, better than the totals of the 23 other MLS teams. LAFC became the first team in league history to have hat tricks in back-to-back away matches. The Club's +9 goal differential in those to matches... also a record.
LAFC's 21 goals scored are the most through seven matches to start a season. And after a 4-1 win over Seattle on Sunday, they are on pace to shatter the previous record of goals scored in a season.
I think you see where I'm going here. With the likes of Vela, Rossi, Adama Diomande, and Christan Ramirez in the side, LAFC can score and score lots.
Style Of Play
“The style of LAFC’s attack is a free-flowing system” - Christian Ramirez
It can't be that simple, right?
And in a lot of ways, it isn't. But then again...
What makes LAFC's attack so potent is the ability to interchange and spread the field. With three attackers on the pitch, LAFC fields two wide forwards and a striker through the middle. Who fills those positions at any given moment during a match doesn't matter so much as long as all three are on the same page.
“In training, Bob [Bradley] tells us not to stand in the same position always. Of course, all of us can play as a striker. And I can play wide, too," Adama Diomande said. "We need to be versatile in our playing style. It’s difficult for the defenders to know which position we’re playing sometimes. We know each other very well now. And we’ve been training a lot together now. We always figure it out on the pitch together.”
That last bit is the crux of things for LAFC. While it seems simple: field three attackers, spread the pitch, interchange, and create advantages. It's the figuring it out on the pitch that is difficult whether you're in the system or defending it.
Bob Bradley gives his attackers the freedom to solve problems on the pitch. All three are asked to press from the front and all three are asked to contribute to creating advantages. There's not a position in the front three that carries out just one job. That takes a certain type of player willing to embrace challenges.
“Someone who continues to always evolve and change throughout the game because that is something Bob preaches to us, to be able to adapt to certain situations that are presented," Ramirez said about the type of player LAFC's attack requires. "If one guy feels like in the moment he needs to go here, then another guy will go cover for him to make sure every area is covered.”
“Ante [Razov] was a striker himself. He gives me a lot of pointers on how to better myself and how to make easier. And how I can see the flow of the game.” - Adrien Perez
When you have a style of play predicated on players "figuring it out" on the pitch, turnover is not your friend.
LAFC embraced continuity in attack over splashing on a bunch of new signings. The Club's two notable signings in attack were Adrien Perez and Rodolfo Zelaya.
Perez joins LAFC after a successful trial with the Club in preseason. The wide attacker grew up about an hour from Banc of California Stadium and starred at Loyola Marymount University before racking up goals in the MASL Ontario Fury. Perez has a high work rate when the team is out of possession, pressing the opposition and tracking back to help in defense. His ability to cut in from the right and get off a shot has been praised by the coaching staff. Perez has also shown a willingness to take instruction and has exhibited his understanding of the system both on the training pitch and in his handful of appearances off the bench this season.
Zelaya arrives at LAFC after a stellar career in his native El Salvador with Alianza.
Capable of playing as a No. 9, out wide, or as a second striker, Zelaya has a sharpness to his game in and around the opponent's penalty area. As adept at combining with teammates, as he is going at defenders on his own, his game has been compared to that of Luis Suarez in the way he finds navigates tight spaces to get to goal.
Returning The Core
“Having a full preseason for us all together has helped us continue to build on the attack.” - Christian Ramirez
We've already seen LAFC reaping the benefits of return its core of Ramirez, Vela, Rossi, and Diomande in attack in 2019.
LAFC leads the league in goals scored (25) and chances created from open play (104) through nine matches. And it hasn't just been the number of goals but the quality of as well.
The Vela Curler is a well-known phenomenon around MLS. But the bar has been raised with LAFC's team goals this season. Rossi's goal against D.C. United is a perfect example of the team's interplay and understanding when moments present themselves:
The comfort level of the front three in matches this season has been almost telepathic. As one attacker moves into an area, another fills the space. And in many instances, the reactions to teammates movements before the opposition's defense can get set has been pivotal to finding the back of the net for LAFC.
What To Expect
“We know how each teammate likes to play. I think that is the biggest advantage we have this year compared to last year. Everything has been easier and everything flows a lot better.” - Carlos Vela
Aside from the sheer talent on display in the LAFC attack, every player noted repetition with teammates in training as the biggest advantage going into the Club's second season.
Coupling a technically gifted side that has ideas going forward with players that are all on the same page is a dangerous combo if you are opposing defenses in the MLS. And thus far, LAFC has eased up on the competition.
Averaging just a shade under three goals per match, LAFC's goal differential of +18 through nine matches is more than 10 goals better than its nearest competitor. LAFC has had matches of four goals or more on four separate occasions this season.
LAFC is built to put teams under pressure and capitalize on moments. Vela leads the way but it's a group of complementary players that can all play in different spots in the attack and force teams to defend wide swaths of the pitch.
This team can score... and score lots.
And they are doing it at an even better rate than the historic inaugural season.