Carlos Vela & Adrien Perez Celebrate Preseason Goal 200131 IMG

3 Takeaways | LAFC Continues To Progress In Preseason

The second preseason match of 2020 resulted in a 3-1 win for LAFC. 

The friendly was an opportunity for players to up the match minutes on their legs - a handful of players were extended to 60 minutes. It was also an opportunity to raise the level a bit more.

LAFC mostly controlled the match against NYCFC. Chances numbered in the home side's favor and LAFC made it very difficult for their opponents on the day. The Black & Gold looked much more compact than against Peñarol. The pressing was sharper from the front, as were the shifting of the lines behind to stifle NYCFC. And after a few instances where players pondered their next move a little longer than they should in the early going, there were good, quick reactions when the ball was lost. 

All in all, it was a disciplined performance with heightened intensity from the entire squad.

Now for the takeaways. In the News & Notes this week, I wrote a little bit about LAFC's game model. The three goals today each had an aspect of the principles at play in LAFC's football. And since the game model is fresh in my mind - and yours too because you read the News & Notes this week, I hope - it seems a good time to point out of those things from each of the three goals.

Here are the takeaways from LAFC's preseason 3-1 win over NYCFC:

Sometimes We're Direct

The first goal of the match came from a quick connection between Carlos Vela and Brian Rodríguez. The Uruguayan striker got behind the NYCFC backline and finished into the bottom corner.

LAFC prefers to use the ball by connecting passes to create opportunities. But even though they want to stroke the ball around the pitch, they aren't averse to taking advantage with just one pass.

As the play developed, LAFC has switched the ball out to the touchline and onto the feet of Vela. With nothing in front of him, Vela decided to carry the ball inside. In these moments, the opposition usually takes the opportunity to squeeze an opponent by stepping forward and compacting their lines. However, Vela isn't easy to get the ball from and NYCFC failed to put adequate pressure on him despite stepping forward.

The result was nearly the entire NYCFC formation skewed towards Vela's side of the pitch and a big space behind the backline. Once Rodríguez saw Vela pick his head up, he initiated his run off the back shoulder of the defender. Vela recognized the run and sent a ball over the top with the right weight and angle to beat the defense and freeze the goalkeeper.

The ball itself is perfect - Vela had more than a few others on the day. Rodríguez's ability to bring the pass down on the run is perfect. And to cap it off, Rodríguez has the composure to get himself and the ball in a good position to shoot. 

Take what the defense gives you. Play direct. Finish the chance.

Look Forward

The second LAFC goal came from the spot. Adrien Perez won and converted the penalty. The leadup before the referee's decision featured another reoccurring idea Bob Bradley tries to instill in his team.

LAFC worked to recover a ball in the opposition's half. Diego Palacios got onto the free ball in a bit of a crowd just beyond the center circle. Generally, teams look to secure the ball in those moments and then start the offensive possession. Simple sideways or backward passes slow the game down and a team restarts against what is usually a reset defense by that point.

In those moments when the game moves quickly, Bradley asks his players if they can find moments to go forward instead. Transition quickly before the defense has a moment to get in place. Palacios sees the loose ball and thinks go forward right away. 

As the play develops, Perez anticipates his teammate winning possession and pulls a yard or two away from the center back. The ball is played forward first time from Palacios, just as Perez faces up his defender. After an attacking first touch from the forward, the defender scrambled to get back ahead of Perez, only to bundle him down.

An opportunity created out of LAFC's desire to go forward even when the game gets fast and not let the opposition get set.

Create Windows, Use Space

The final LAFC goal in the match was the result of LAFC Academy player Christian Torres working with Mohamed El-Munir on the left and finished by draftee Jorge Gonzalez. 

The key component to this movement was in the timing and recognition of the run. Torres has impressed in his two preseason matches with his ability to create windows in attacking moments. 

As El-Munir carries the ball up the halfspace on the left side, Torres positions himself wide. This holds the right back as he has to account for both Torres and El-Munir. Torres recognizes the space that this creates and waits to accelerate his run until El-Munir releases the pass into the space. 

With his body already angled towards goal, Torres is able to get ahead of the defender and send an early ball to the center of the box. The firm cross is met by Gonzalez and he only has to guide it beyond the goalkeeper.

It's timing and patience that make this movement successful. Torres used the space instead of immediately rushing into it. That held his defender and told El-Munir where to play the ball. Both LAFC players recognized the advantage and El-Munir's soft pass gave Torres the opportunity to play the early ball as NYCFC backline tried to catch up.

It was a well-worked goal to finish off the day and another example of LAFC's attacking ideas at work.