LAFC shaken by the Earthquakes
October 1, 2020
Los Angeles Football Club has nine matches remaining in the season to right the ship before the 2020 MLS Playoffs begin on November 20. LAFC is currently mired in seventh place in the Western Conference, only two points shy of not qualifying for the playoffs, yet only six points out of first place with the defending Champion Seattle Sounders and the contending Portland Timbers.
LAFC's latest loss was a late-game collapse against the San Jose Earthquakes, who scored two goals in the waning minutes to upset the Black and Gold, 2-1, at the Bank of California on Sunday night. Like a recurring nightmare since late August, LAFC had multiple opportunities to score but failed to find the back of the net combined with late defensive lapses. The team has now lost six of nine matches in the past 35 days since the league resumed this summer.
"It's a bad loss," stated head coach Bob Bradley, coming straight to the point. "Come in at halftime with a late goal. Didn't start the second half well. But still as we move on in the second half, we have some advantages to get the second goal. We don't handle them well and then in the final moments when we just need to be able to defend certain situations better."
LAFC will start their final campaign of the regular season on the road this Sunday, October 4, against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Due to Major Leagues Soccer's very compressed schedule to complete the season, LAFC will play nine matches in 35 days. They will play every three or four days except for two stretches with a week between matches. It culminates against Portland on Sunday, November 8, at the Banc.
Real Salt Lake blanked LAFC, 3-0, five matches ago when the two teams met on September 9 in Utah. That loss marked the first time LAFC had a losing record in the MLS standings in the team's three-year history. Bradley fielded six different starting players from a 3-0 loss three days earlier to the L.A. Galaxy due to load management and player injuries.
RSL, tied with LAFC for seventh in the Conference, will be focused on getting the same result as they only have one win since the teams' last encounter. They played Minnesota United FC to a scoreless draw last Sunday and have only managed four goals during the stretch. Midfielder Damir Kreilach, who scored the first goal against LAFC, leads Salt Lake with six goals this season. Following are two other RSL midfielders, Albert Rusnak and Justin Meram, each with three goals.
In comparison, forwards Diego Rossi and Bradley Wright-Phillips lead LAFC in scoring with 11 and seven goals respectively. The Black and Gold also lead the league in total goals scored with 32. Last season they tied the record for most goals in a season with 85, matching the Galaxy's mark established in 1998. Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who scored the only goal against San Jose, is third on the team with three goals scored and tied for second in assists with four.
"Our standard is very high and I think we let ourselves down today, whether that be, like I said, winning certain balls, or running back harder, running forward harder," said Kaye after the match. "San Jose is always a tough team with the way they play. So they make it a very difficult game that requires you to push really hard to try and pick up second balls and find some space for yourself."
The possibility of four players from LAFC's roster being called up soon by their national teams for international play also looms in the background. "It's always a good compliment to have players go away with their national teams. It shows that the club is doing the right thing," addressed Kaye. "Now, players are going to have to step up when they're called on and that's why training is so important... they just need to be ready to perform at the standard we need them to be at."
Despite LAFC's defense being under constant duress and criticism this season, defender Eddie Segura remained confident about the team's future: "Teams go through bad stretches. We just need to fix the mistakes and focus on the little details that aren't working for us right now... There's still a lot to be played. We have a great team and we believe in our style of play."
Bradley added: "The fact that we weren't good enough tonight is something that we're disappointed about. But we continue to create chances and we've just got to find a better way to play right until the end of games, to execute better when we have advantages, to concentrate in different situations defensively"