LAFC 0 - 3 Real Salt Lake
MLS Regular Season – Game #10
Sept 9, 2020
For the first time in its history, the Los Angeles Football Club sits with a losing record in the MLS standings. After suffering a 3-0 loss on Wednesday to Real Salt Lake, the Black & Gold is now 3-4-3 and is in eighth place in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. After losing just four times in the entire 2019 season, LAFC has now lost four of their first 10 regular season games this season.
“It’s easy to see that we are in a period where it’s well below our standards,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “There’s only one thing we can do – we have to play ourselves out of it.”
LAFC enjoyed the greatest regular season in MLS history in 2019 and then exploded for a league-high 11 goals in advancing to the quarterfinals in the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando, but the Black & Gold has struggled in the Phase 1 restart of the season without injured 2019 MVP Carlos Vela and MLS Best XI midfielder Eduard Atuesta, losing four of their last six matches and being outscored 12-6.
“Right now we have to embrace that as good a team as we’ve been, as much as we have had some really good games not that long ago, with everything on right now – we have lost our way,” Bradley said.
LAFC traveled to Salt Lake City just two days after playing the Galaxy, forcing Bradley to field a new lineup heavy on young talent with Vela and sidelined due to injuries and 2019 MLS All-Star Mark Anthony Kaye missing the match due to a red card suspension.
“We have to get our mentality back on track,” LAFC midfielder Bryce Duke said. “We can’t dwell on losses. We have to keep playing our game.”
LAFC head coach Bob Bradley used a completely new starting lineup vs. Real Salt Lake on Sept. 9, making six changes from the group that fell to the Galaxy on Sept. 6. It was an exceptionally young lineup, with six players 22 years old or younger. If you subtract the ages of veteran defenders Jordan Harvey (36) and Dejan Jaković (35), the LAFC starting lineup was an average age of 21.8 years old.
“Tonight was a strange night because given all the matches of late we needed to rotate the team,” Bradley said. “It was important to get some young guys on the field in the first half. It’s a big ask for guys like Mohamed Traore and Bryce [Duke] to start their first games. It was important for Andy Najar to get 45 minutes in his return.”
Included in that starting lineup were three players who earned their first career MLS starts, Danny Musovski, Duke, and Traore. It was an MLS debut for Traore as well, as the 18-year-old recently joined LAFC on August 17.
It was an emotional night for Duke, who originally played in the Real Salt Lake Academy before joining LAFC and found out he was getting his first MLS start just 24 hours before.
“Once I found out that I was starting, a big smile came over my face,” Duke said. “It’s been a dream of mine ever since I started, and now my dream has come true, but unfortunately we didn’t get the result.”
Andy Najar continued his dramatic comeback from a severe knee injury, making his first start for the Black & Gold and playing the first 45 minutes.
YOUTH IS SERVED
LAFC continued its youth movement on Wednesday vs. Salt Lake, featuring a starting lineup with six players 22 years old or younger.
“What is positive is getting guys on the field and getting guys that experience,” Bradley said. “With all the games coming in a short amount of time the decisions to make that many changes were all based on minutes and just the feeling that we couldn't continue to just push the same group 90 minutes to turn it around that fast.”
The lineup that Bob Bradley rolled out on Sept. 2 vs. San Jose and Sept. 6 vs. the Galaxy was the youngest in MLS this year with an average age of 24.1 years of age. It was also the fifth youngest starting lineup used in the league since 2015.
LAFC continued to struggle on set pieces in 2020, as all three of the goals Real Salt Lake scored occurred off of a set piece.
“Our piece weaknesses continue to show up,” Bradley said. “Not so much on first balls, but on second balls and clearing balls. Those things have hurt us all year.”
Almost every game, the Black & Gold have been victimized by a goal off of a corner kick or free kick in a dangerous area. As Bradley mentioned, it hasn’t always been the initial play that has caused the damage, but failure to clear balls away off of the set pieces that have led to several goals, including two on Wednesday vs. Real Salt Lake.
“Each one is different,” Bradley said. “So it's hard to put a finger on one thing. It’s still a lot about awareness as a set piece develops.”
“We are just going to continue to work through things,” Bradley said. “As I said to the team - we just have to play through. We can't forget what it means to play for this Club, and what it means to play for our supporters. Even when a game is not going our way, we have to find a way that we fight until the end and not show frustration.”