LAFC wake-up call against Seattle Sounders
September 3, 2020
"What, me worry?" Despite losing consecutive league matches to drop into a sixth-place tie in Major League Soccer'shighly competitive Western Conference, there is no panic in LAFC-ville. Yet, the 3-1 road-lossto the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night was a clear wake-up call for last season's winners of the MLS Supporters' Shield. Even Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman would agree.
"We're going through a very difficult stretch," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley following the Seattle loss, the team's consecutive Conference loss in two matches since the season restart."You can see that we have a lot of guys who are not in good form, and mentally they'rejust not where they need to be."
Regardless and perhaps luckily, the Black and Gold have no time to reflect on the poor restart as they host the San Jose Earthquakes this Wednesday night, September 2, at the Banc of California Stadium. Both teams will be playing to an empty house due to the COVID-19 health protocol measures. In three matches this season at the Banc, LAFC has won one, tied one and lost one, a 2-0 stunner to the L.A. Galaxy last week.
"Overall, the start to the (Seattle) game was very good. I think our intensity was at a higher level than in the game versus the Galaxy. That was our biggest disappointment versus the Galaxy," said Bradley.
"To be a really good team you have to face some adversity. I think there's two times where we've lost consecutive league games before this. And so, in the other moments we didn't change what we were doing. We didn't abandon our style of play."
For the fifth time in the last six matches, LAFC failed to score the first goal of the match. This time, Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaztook advantage of a deflection that left LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer out of position. Ruidiaz delivered a punishing shot outside of the 18-yard box over an immobilized Vermeer for a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute. It was the fourth goal struck from outside the 18-yard box allowed by the veteran keeper this season.
Fast forward to the early minutes of the 2nd-half when the Sounders slammed the door shut with two goals by midfielder Jordan Morris within a minute of each other. This came after LAFC talked at halftime about being more aggressive in the final part of the field, getting into the box and taking on Seattle more. Morris put the first one away on an assist by Nicolas Lodeiro.
His second was a virtual gift one minute later as LAFC lapsed mentally.LAFC lost their positioning on the kickoff. Defender Tristan Blackmon moved uncharacteristically high and wide followed by Defender Eddie Segura's forced pass in the middle. Seattle midfielder Joao Paolo capitalized, feeding a pass to Morris giving himhis brace.
Forward Diego Rossi gave LAFC its lone score in the 60th minute, his league-leading seventh goal of the season. Ruidiaz and Morris moved into a tie for third in league scoring with five each. Rossi's goal salvaged LAFC from being shutout in consecutive matches for the first time in their 3-year MLS history. They have been shutout a total of seven times in all matches, including non-league matches.
"That's all we focus on right now. Continue to build the mentality, being strong and keep trying to take positives from each performance, even if there are not as many as there usually are," said Blackmon during Tuesday's Zoom conference call with the media. "We haven't had a spell like this before as a club. It's been a little difficult. We set a high standard for ourselves and we're falling under that."
Bradley stressed that the team is working on specifically getting rid of some mistakes on defensive set pieces. LAFC has given up four goals this season on set pieces in only seven matches. They gave up the same amount all last season in 34 games when the team set the MLS record for goal differentials.
So far this season LAFC has scored 16 goals and allowed 16 goals. Last season, they scored 85 goals and only conceded 37 in 34 games. Blackmon: We have a lot of guys here from the first three years and we have a ton of new guys. It's just molding that mentality and what we've built over the last few years and keep believing in that because it's worked. It's tough right now."
Bradley invoked the name of L.A. Clipper star, Kawhi Leonard along with a nod to the faithful fan base led by The 3252 Independent Supporters Union: "I used the Kawhi Leonard example. Being a good teammate. Being strong. Helping others on the field and off. This is our life right now and it's important we find ways to help each other.
"We thank our supporters. We know that a lot of our supporters right now are dealing with COVID, dealing with everything. It's not been easy. The responsibility on us to go on the field and represent all of them, that's all a part of what goes on around here when we talk. There's no room for looking backwards."
The San Jose Earthquakes arrive at the Banc in eighth place in the Western Conference with eight points. LAFC has dominated the history of the regular season series with San Jose, winning all four matches while outscoring the Quakes 15-3 in those contests. San Jose also lost 3-2 to the L.A. Galaxy last Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.
The LAFC / San Jose contest is only one of a total of 10 MLS matches taking place this Wednesday, September 2, as the league continues to move the schedule forward during the pandemic. With both teams riding losing streaks, the stakes take on added importance with the abbreviated league schedule before the MLS Playoffs begin in late November.