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5 Takeaways | The Response You Want - LAFC 4-3 ATL 7/26/19

Even great teams lose. The best teams though, make something of it.

Were you still reeling a bit from the loss in the derby? You weren't alone. But while we all ruminated on the finer points of whether a clenched or open hand results in more force from your elbow, LAFC got on with it. Like they've done all season. 

Give Bob Bradley's team credit in its less than two seasons in MLS. After a loss, they're a nightmare to play against.

In 2019, LAFC is a perfect four out of four in matches following a loss in all competitions - the Black & Gold average four goals a game in those matches. And after the 4-3 win over reigning MLS Cup champions Atlanta United, LAFC has a +10 goal differential in said matches.

Still, on the pitch after the match, Walker Zimmerman told me it's "a sign that we're learning." Why? Because they weren't happy they conceded in the first two minutes against Atlanta. Or gave up a goal just before the half. And Zimmerman and his teammates definitely weren't happy a 4-1 scoreline ended 4-3 - both because LAFC had its chances and they let the opponent get that close.

Great teams are never satisfied.

Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 4-3 win over Atlanta United:

Worst Way To Start And End A Half

When you want to get your message across, you get to the point.

Despite scoring four goals in the span of 12 minutes, Bob Bradley wasn't convinced. He saw his team give up a soft goal in the second minute, wrestle back control of the match, put on the most preposterous exhibition of skill and execution to score four goals in a short span, and then capitulate less than three minutes later.

That had to have driven Bradley nuts. And he definitely would have shared that same message he gave during the halftime interview with his team - albeit I'm sure it wouldn't have made it past the censors... even on cable.

And thankfully, he got the right response out of his team.

LAFC may have conceded once more in the second half but they were hardly bystanders. Atlanta made their push, LAFC stood toe-to-toe and never let up looking for the knockout punch. Had it not been for two top-drawer saves from Brad Guzan, LAFC would have found a fifth and iced the match. But even without it, the Black & Gold rode out the match to collect all three points.

Big Time Recoveries

Jordan Harvey led the way here. The LAFC left back epitomized LAFC's never-say-die attitude.

There are times when LAFC looks to capitalize on an advantage and things go south. Now, you'll take your players trying to squeeze balls into tight windows because the reward of a goal is worth it, but it's also because your backline can suss out numerous defensive transition moments with relentless running.

Harvey had more than a few occasions where he went from attack to full-blown hustle towards his own goal without hesitation. When you play a high line, you need defenders that just buy in. They accept that there might be a handful of moments they need to exert the maximum while having the confidence it'll be worth it.

Harvey's last-ditch effort to block Julian Gressel's shot in the 90th minute will likely be the highlight of the night for the defender, but he competed from start to finish. 

Interesting Use Of Space

Tonight was definitely a match to rewatch. Two sides with this much talent and football ideas are still too rare in MLS.

But LAFC and Atlanta United go about things in different ways.

If you're one of those that feel football can be reduced to the use of space, your interest must have been piqued.

Whereas LAFC looks to divide and conquer through central avenues, Atlanta venture to the halfspace to make end roads.

When they were at their best to start the second half, Frank de Boer's team looked to Emerson Hyndman and Darlington Nagbe to find pockets in the halfspaces to move LAFC defenders. When you play in those areas, you always ask questions of players in both wide and central areas. If a team isn't balanced, it will leave itself open in order to pressure the ball. 

Atlanta pushed its wing backs higher up the pitch with the introduction of Justin Meram and created chances working from the halfspace towards the touchline. It caused LAFC plenty of difficulty but they were able to slide the backline to cope for the most part. 

He Can Play Anywhere

In my heart of hearts, I believe Latif Blessing can play any position.

During the match, a co-worker laughed and said, "Latif wins so many headers, it's crazy."

He's not wrong. The dude is easily the shortest guy on the pitch nearly every week. But while people toss the word "compete" around like everyone's doing it, Blessing is legit vying for ever ball.

He started the match in a central area and was moved to right back an hour into proceedings. LAFC needed an answer to Justin Meram's dribbling and Blessing provided it by refusing to quit on every ball in his general vicinity.

Economical Man Of The Match

Lee Nguyen was my Man of the Match. He played just over 30 minutes.

In addition to Latif Blessing's contributions after moving to right back, Lee Nguyen was LAFC's biggest catalyst.

Get this, Nguyen came on after his team had already scored four goals and didn't score another in the time he was on the pitch. And still, he was easily the most pivotal figure on the night.

With Atlanta pushing for the tying goal, LAFC needed to push back. But each time they won the ball back, they failed to get the tempo right. Nguyen provided that outlet in the middle of the pitch. He wasn't afraid to get on the ball in crowded areas, dribble when necessary and play quick passes in other moments. Nguyen willed his team up and down the pitch.

Nguyen was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet by either a goal or assist but had he not dictated play the way he did, LAFC wouldn't have retained its one-goal margin until the final whistle.