After thriving for a short stretch at home, LAFC floundered in Chicago last weekend, falling to the Fire after ceding a penalty kick and allowing three goals in the first half. The team never found an offensive rhythm despite maintaining dominant possession for all 90 minutes, resulting in a frustrating 3-1 finish.
Although the game set back the team slightly in its bid to climb to the top of the Western Conference, it was a learning moment for head coach Bob Bradley and his team.
Costly penalties take away early momentum
Steven Beitashour gave up a penalty in the box in the 29th minute, which put LAFC behind by two goals in the first half. The goal was devastating mainly due to its timing, coming only 10 minutes after Djordje Mihailovic struck a wonderful ball to give Chicago a surprising 1-0 lead. Although the first blood was drawn by the Fire, typically LAFC responds well to being down, and a 1-0 deficit wouldn’t have been difficult for the team to overcome.
However, the penalty kick deflated any possibility of an immediate rebound from LAFC. It slowed the pace of the team’s attack and the game as a whole, sinking the team into a hole that it couldn’t overcome. Although it’s hard to say whether LAFC would have been able to muster the comeback due to its issues connecting in the attacking third, the penalty definitively changed the course of the game.
Dominant possession time fails to translate into points
In the past, the LAFC attack relied on an uncanny level of affinity from the forwards and attacking midfielders. The connection between Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela has been cited as one of the main sources of the team’s ability to score early and often against opponents.
But on the road in Chicago, that ability to communicate seemed relatively non-existent. This might explain why the team was so lopsided in seeing results in the attacking third despite possessing the ball for most of the game. With a 67 percentage of possession time, the team took 16 shots, but only six of those came on frame and several came off of corner kicks and other set pieces.
This uncharacteristic lack of chemistry didn’t seem to concern Bradley too much, but he addressed it after the game, saying that he believes his team will quickly find its footing again.
Bradley’s focus on the midfield proves founded
Perhaps the weakest area of the game for LAFC was its midfield. Bradley had stressed the importance of the unit’s ability to face counterattacks heading into the Chicago game, and his concern was proven to be valid as the team struggled to handle Chicago’s quick counters. While LAFC did well to maintain possession, the ability of the midfield to both defend and build an attack through quick passes wasn’t apparent on Saturday, and the team struggled because of it.
Chance to move up in rankings takes a hit
The top of the Western Conference has been a neck-and-neck dog fight for weeks between FC Dallas, Sporting KC and LAFC, with a win or a loss barely separating the top three. However, with the road loss, LAFC fell four points behind Dallas, setting the team further back from its hope of leapfrogging to the first position.
As long as LAFC keeps pace with Sporting KC for the rest of the season, the possibility of moving to the No. 2 slot remains since the two teams face each other in the closing game of the season.