When Liverpool and Tottenham faced off in this year's Champions League Final, many saw it as the Premier League's ascendancy back to the pinnacle of world football. The second-ever all-English final in the world's greatest competition, it was inevitable that the Premier League would end its seven-year drought in the competition.
Couple that with an all-English final in the Europa League in the same season and you had people predicting a new era of Premier League dominance in Europe not seen since the early 80s.
Not going unnoticed was the managers of the four teams in this year's finals. Jürgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Unai Emery, and Maurizio Sarri all came to England with ideas vastly different from their contemporaries in the league. It's no coincidence the arrival of the four managers, along with Pep Guardiola, has the Premier League living up to its collection of some of the world's best talent. Such is the effect of world-class managers.
Like England, MLS is finding out what the rest of Europe already knew: great managers and head coaches make a difference. And with the arrivals of Tata Martino, Rémi Garde, and Matias Almeyda, the League is seeing the investment in great coaching pay off on the pitch.
But as I sat in the postmatch press conference and listened to yet another reporter ask Bob Bradley what it was like to coach against Almeyda - we heard it in preseason and again before LAFC steamrolled SJ 5-0 in March - it hit me. You all forgot about Bob Bradley, didn't you?
Because if we're going to have a conversation about coaching raising the level of MLS and we're going to ask what it's like to face this manager or that one, you better be recognizing a coach that has won it all in MLS, then coached in a World Cup, THEN challenged himself with stops in Egypt, Norway, and France, AND THEN coached in the Premier League, all before coming back to build LAFC into one of the most devasting and aesthetically pleasing sides to watch in all of MLS in less than two years. And by the way, a team that currently has a better goal differential than the entire Western Conference COMBINED.
There's a reason why John Thorrington said the smartest thing he did when he arrived as general manager of LAFC was hiring Bob Bradley.
So, you ask, "Bob, what's it like to look down the touchline and see Matias Almeyda?" And I'd respond, you better be asking Almeyda what it's like to attempt to outmatch Bob Bradley.
Ok, rant done.
Let's get to the takeaways from LAFC's 3-1 win over Matias Almeyda's San Jose Earthquakes in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16:
Early Let Down
We've almost gotten too used to LAFC getting the best of teams early. In the last three matches in all competitions, LAFC has found itself a goal to the good less than 10 minutes into the match.
But it was a let down off of a thrown-in in San Jose's half that caught out the Black & Gold early in this one. LAFC failed to get pressure on Jackson Yueill as the ball came back into play and he wasted no time springing Cristian Espinoza behind the LAFC backline.
Vako finished off the play at the back post to provide LAFC with an early wakeup call. It was the type of moment that reminds a team you can't let off even in what seems like a benign moment.
Eriksson Drops In The Hole
Magnus Eriksson is not your prototypical No. 10. More of the all-action type winger, he played a particular role in the Earthquakes front four on Thursday night.
Eriksson positioned himself high against the LAFC backline when San Jose regained possession. Looking to play direct balls to wingers Vako and Espinoza, San Jose players routinely found the feet of Eriksson with shut layoffs as he dropped into the space created by the retreating LAFC backline.
Eriksson used the soft space between LAFC's lines to pull the strings all night, slotting in teammates early and often. He finished the match with five key passes and was the Earthquakes most dangerous creator on the night. Fortunately for LAFC, none of those key passes resulted in assists.
Sisniega Stands Tall
Pablo Sisniega might like the Open Cup.
In his second appearance for LAFC - all in Open Cup play - Sisniega was up to the challenge once again. The Mexican goalkeeper made eight saves on the night. Many of them looked to be surefire goals as they came off the boots of the Earthquakes players.
After the match, Bob Bradley praised Sisniega's ability to step in and not miss a beat. Bradley now has two proven goalkeepers he can rely on. A luxury he lacked last season and a testament to LAFC's depth in all areas on the pitch.
Rossi Creates & Scores
Slightly under the radar with the heroics of Pablo Sisniega was the play of Diego Rossi. He was a thorn in San Jose's side all night, as neither fullback could keep up with his pace.
Down 1-0, Rossi's movement in the box created an opening for Lee Nguyen to send the Uruguayan 1v1 with the SJ goalkeeper. From there, Rossi simply held his nerve until the last possible moment. As the goalkeeper committed to ground, a deft chip into the back of the net was all it took to bring the teams level.
Not content with just scoring, Rossi turned creator for the eventual game-winner. We don't often recognize his distribution but Rossi showed he can pick a pass. His perfectly weighted through ball gave Adama Diomande a fairly straightforward finish to make it 2-1.
Need More In The Next Round
Carlos Vela finished the match off with a goal in the 85th minute. And he capped it with the most poignant line of the night after the match.
"We have to take control when we play at home," the LAFC captain said when asked about the back and forth nature of the match.
Truth be told, both sides had chances to win this game. LAFC wasn't sharp in multiple 3v3 and odd-man moments and San Jose nearly made them pay at the other end as a result.
In the quarterfinals, LAFC will have to be much sharper, especially at home. It will be a rematch of last year with Portland coming to town once again.
You can be sure they won't be an easy out after already falling twice to the Black & Gold in 2019.