Indulge me for a moment to start these Takeaways. Because I know what I saw tonight at Banc of California Stadium, I'm just having trouble properly putting it into words.
And that's my job. What good am I to you otherwise?
- LAFC 3 - 3 PHI
Ok, before you start looking for my replacement, I think I've got it. When you can't find the words, maybe it's a good idea to reference a higher power for inspiration.
I think of this Hunter S. Thompson quote often. It might illuminate the way in regards to LAFC's 3-3 draw with the Philadelphia Union.
"Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about 50 more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio."
What we saw tonight was pure energy. From the sounds of the 3252 to all six goals, it was electric. If that match was fuel, it might take you to the moon and back. At about the 60th minute - mind you, the teams were still just at two goals apiece - I told someone this is a Gladiator game. As in, two teams going toe-to-toe and then spreading their arms at the center circle and shouting, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?"
We all got our money's worth tonight.
Here are the takeaways from the 3-3 shootout between LAFC and the Union:
The King Of Los Angeles
Carlos Vela did it again.
That was Vela's 50th MLS goal. The LAFC captain is the third quickest to 50 goals in league history. And he made No. 50 one to remember.
Vela also extended his MLS record of scoring in consecutive home games to 12.
What's crazy about that is when you think of a young kid wanting to come to an LAFC game, probably the first thing they hope for is to see Carlos Vela do something cool or even better score a goal in person. And even crazier is the fact you can almost count on him to do it.
Buy the ticket and just show up, Vela will do the rest to make your match a memorable one. He's always worth the price of admission.
Only Good Goals
How is it that Carlos Vela's inch-perfect free-kick is maybe the second or even third best goal in this match?
It's one thing to get a 3-3 match. It's another to have four legitimate Goal of the Week contenders in one match.
Diego Rossi's killer touch and curling finish. Sergio Santos' banger from the edge of the box. That Jakob Glesnes rocket! Are you kidding me?
If you're coming to LAFC's house, you better have a plan. To Philadelphia's credit, they had a definitive plan and they stuck to it.
You could see it from the Union's opening foray into LAFC territory. Jim Curtin's team was going to play direct. They were going to get the ball in LAFC's half and they were going to contest every loose and bouncing ball.
Alejandro Bedoya and Brenden Aaronson were ball-hawking all night. The pair pressed up close to forwards Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybylko. The Union wasn't afraid to launch balls high into the night because they knew with their physical forwards could engage LAFC's backline and the runners like Bedoya and Aaronson could make life difficult by getting onto any second balls.
Philadelphia's third goal was a result of the approach. Aaronson, Santos, Przybylko all converged on and overloaded LAFC at the heart of its defense. Andre Blake sent a long ball into the scrum and they all know it's not about controlling the ball right away but being there following the first touch to make something happen. This time its Aaronson getting on the ball and although LAFC deals with it initially, the Black & Gold are scrambling and that kind of chaos is just what Philly is hoping for.
It's a low risk, high reward game plan. And if you have the squad that embraces it, you can make life difficult. For the most part, LAFC handled the second balls well through a concerted effort from its midfield to help out the backline when it challenged for headers. But it only takes one.
Can't Knock The Mentality
LAFC went behind on three separate occasions in this match. All three times, they leveled things less than 10 minutes later.
Earning just a point at home will be disappointing to a team that's used to winning. And it's never good to give up three goals on any night. But fortifying that confidence that despite going behind, they can find a way back will serve LAFC well throughout this season.
Bad Luck Brian
If it wasn't for bad luck, Brian Rodríguez might have no luck at all.
He's clearly pressing and he's frustrated. In the dying moments of the match, he had a clearcut chance to snatch all three points for LAFC. And I know he wanted nothing more than to bury that shot because I saw the frustration as he trudged off the pitch.
After the match, Bob Bradley said the whole team feels bad for him and they're pulling for Rodríguez because right now he looks like "he has the weight of the world on his shoulders."
Rodríguez is supremely talented. He can fly and he has that innate ability to beat his man 1v1. But as a young player, he still learning.
Rodríguez is the type of player that is so gifted, he's been able to make bad situations work for him. I've seen him beat his man at full speed, get the ball caught up in his feet, and still blast a shot past the keeper. It's amazing but it makes you think, what if he could get the ball into a proper position before shooting? Right now, he's maybe relying a bit too much on his physical attributes and not enough on controlling moments.
Bradley said as much when he referenced Diego Rossi's goal when talking about Rodríguez. Aside from the technique in the finish, Rossi does so well to set himself up for the shot by controlling every aspect of his body. His touch is weighted perfectly. He recognizes the situation, that the defender is giving him too much space, and he knows exactly how much time he has.
Then Rossi does that thing Bradley said Rodríguez could learn from most, Rossi slows down for a fraction of a second. He shapes for the ensuing finish in that half-beat. His mind is in complete agreement with his body. By the time Rossi his this shot, he knows the outcome.
Rodríguez is sometimes just winging it and relying on that superior speed and talent. He's so difficult to defend because even he doesn't know what's coming next. But when things aren't falling in place, you're not going to get the end result.
What's encouraging is that he's getting himself into the right positions. But to get to the next level, Rodríguez has to learn when to slow things down and go from raw power to controlled precision. Once he finds that gear amidst all the rest of his bag of tricks, his luck should turn around.