Say a prayer for the goalkeepers that have to see Carlos Vela cutting the ball back onto his left foot. They know what's coming.
He did it again in Minnesota. Like he's done so many times before.
In a yard of space on the right side of the penalty area, Vela shifted the ball to his left foot. Vito Mannone knew what was coming. But like so many before him, the Minnesota goalkeeper could only glance over his right shoulder as Vela's shot nestled into the side of the net.
Josef Martinez has company atop the MLS single-season goals record.
And Vela still has one match left to make it all his own.
Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 1-1 draw in Minnesota:
It's Been A While
It's been a little over a month to be exact.
LAFC's first half in Minnesota was the best we've seen from the Black & Gold since Aug. 21 against San Jose. The only thing lacking was a goal.
Despite going into the interval at 0-0, LAFC had a lot of its better qualities on display. The team had tempo to its passing and was using the ball create advantages. When they lost the ball, the reactions to win the ball back were sharp. There were long spells where LAFC penned Minnesota back. The final touch just wasn't there.
I made a point of retweeting this at half time:
This is a pretty good evidence for why you have to watch the match and can't trust stats alone. https://t.co/otGogKmi8b— Vince La Rosa (@LAFCvince) September 30, 2019
Hopefully, it was a robot that tweeted that out because if you watched what was going down on the pitch, you'd be crazy to use "stifled" to explain what you saw.
On The Move
I'll start this by saying that Brian Rodríguez had his best match in his young career for LAFC on Sunday. He hit the crossbar on two occasions, had two successful dribbles, and had two key passes on the night.
That being said, he still has room to grow.
Rodríguez was at his best moving into space. But there are still moments where he wants to simply wait near the touchline for the ball.
Here's an example:
Early in the match, Diego Palacios carries into space and Rodríguez is content to wait in space instead of driving forward. When he receives the ball, he has two defenders already ahead of him and waiting. If he drives forward, he maybe doesn't receive the ball over the top but he stretches the defense.
As the match wore on, Rodríguez didn't settle for receiving the ball out wide with defenders already set ahead of him. Here's a good example of him finding a moment to come inside on the move:
Rodríguez receives between the lines and dribbles at Minnesota's defense from a dangerous area. It didn't work out that time but you could see the idea. And coming from a central area, Rodríguez was able to put his dribbling and speed to good use. It was a similar movement coming off the touchline and into a more central area that led to a combination with Carlos Vela and Rodríguez's chip eventually hitting the crossbar.
Rodríguez was on the move once more in the 74th minute when he recognized space behind the Loons backline and was picked out by Eduard Atuesta. The Uruguayan cut inside and his shot, unfortunately, hit the crossbar once again but hopefully, the lesson was learned. The more Rodríguez can find moments to move into space to receive passes, the more effective he'll be in LAFC's attack.
Thought this moment summed up Diego Palacios' debut pretty well:
It's a good read of the situation and a great reaction. He shows quick feet and a willingness to battle for the ball. We saw all those things - plus his passing ability - in Chiqui's 84 minutes on the pitch in Minnesota.
The fullback position is one of the hardest to play for LAFC. You're expected to read so many situations and you're on an island a lot of times. In his debut, Chiqui showed he's got a good sense of the game and the physical tools to make plays.
He's a bit unfortunate getting caught behind his defensive line on the backside on the goal. But that's something that can be easily corrected. Especially, for someone that has only had a few chances to train set pieces with his teammates.
All in all, very good debut for the youngster from Ecuador and you can see many of the reasons LAFC was so happy to get him on the final day of the transfer window.
Lovely, lovely stadium there in Minnesota. The pitch though...
I think Mohamed El-Munir's reaction sums it up pretty well:
The Supporters' Sheild is already secure. Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs comes with it as well. But there's still plenty on the line heading into LAFC's final match of the 2019 regular season.
As already noted, Carlos Vela is level with Josef Martinez for the most goals in an MLS season. Heading into the final match with 31 goals, Vela has scored in eight matches in a row and you'd bet he'll get plenty of looks next Sunday against a Colorado team that has given up the second-most goals in the Western Conference.
On the team front, LAFC is still within reach of the all-time points mark in a single season. A win on the final day would put LAFC on 72 points for 2019, besting the record held by the NY Red Bulls. There's even an outside chance LAFC could set the mark for most goals scored in a season.
So, what I'm trying to tell you is get to Banc of California Stadium this coming Sunday or else be watching on YouTube TV. You wouldn't want to miss history...