LAFC's brutal stretch is finally coming to an end.
Five matches in 15 days would test even the deepest of squads. When you drop a quarterfinal into the mix and travel in less than a 48-hour span, now you're simply testing the limits of what is physically possible.
But the show must go on. The trip to Houston has its own challenges. Bob Bradley and his staff have their work cut out for them.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC at the Houston Dynamo:
Matches in Houston are always a unique this time of year.
As an away team, you're fully aware the challenge isn't just the 11 players on the opposition. The heat and humidity are foes unto themselves.
It's not something you focus on. But you have to be aware of it going in. The performance staff will have done everything in their power to prep and educate the players prior to this match. Once the opening whistle blows, its on the focus of each individual player to battle through the physical and mental fatigue.
Slow The Counter Attack
The Dynamo hammer teams on the break. When you have Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas, and Tomás Martinez in your side, you want to attack the space in behind teams.
Houston will drop into a low block defensively to entice teams forward. They're happy to suffer in their own end as the opposition knocks the ball around because they know one mistake can lead to Elis sprinting at a retreating defense. And that's not a situation you want to be in often if you can help it.
Positioning as LAFC goes forward will be key. Players need to anticipate the right moments to move into space and when to be close to the opposition in case the ball is lost. By keeping compact, the Black & Gold can get after loose balls and keep the Dynamo from finding out balls to attackers waiting high up the pitch.
Seize The Moment
With only one competition to focus on now, the LAFC reserves have to know opportunities to break into the rotation are getting scarce.
Following a match on Wednesday, expect heavy rotation for this trip. It's another chance to show the coaching staff you can be counted on. The players that haven't started regularly need to show they're ability to create football that resembles the ideas from the training pitch.
Despite the rotation, the players that start tonight need to find ways to control the match, foster relationships that can create advantages in the match, and demonstrate their willingness to change matches when called on.