LAFC gets ready for the regular season

T-minus one week and counting. Los Angeles Football Club played the New England Revolution to a 2-2 draw in the first of two exhibition games between the two clubs before the 2021 Major League Soccer season starts next weekend. Both will take the field again at Banc of California Stadium this Saturday, April 10, before LAFC hosts Austin FC, the league's latest franchise entry, on Saturday, April 17, 3:00 p.m. at the Banc.

"A few good moments but overall I still think the timing and the understanding has to improve," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "Obviously, the movement along the front line was fluid so they were all able to pick up different spots. I mentioned a couple of good chances in the first half so that part was positive. And then we just need to continue to work through things in the early part of the year, so guys are sharper and the understanding gets better."

Bradley and his staff started a familiar 4-3-4 lineup of veteran players (with jersey numbers): goalkeeper - Pablo Sisniega (23); defenders - Tristan Blackmon (27), Eddie Segura (4), Jesus Murillo (94), and Diego Palacios (12); midfielders – Eduard Atuesta (20), Latif Blessing (7), and Jose Cifuentes (11); forwards – Corey Baird (13), Diego Rossi (9), and Carlos Vela (10). All were on LAFC's roster last season except for Baird, who was acquired in January from Real Salt Lake. Baird, a native of Escondido, was the 2018 MLS Rookie of the year.

"I thought the match went well for, I'd say, 80-85 minutes of the game. I thought we really controlled the game. They kind of came at us in the second half and I thought we came out a little flat. It's something that was talked about at halftime, so we've got to do better there. But, after a month of preseason, it's definitely nice getting to play against another team," said Bradley.

After a scoreless first half, the Revolution took advantage of a couple of LAFC lapses to build a 2-0 lead early in the second half. "It was a poor start and there are no excuses," said Black and Gold (LAFC) defender Tristan Blackmon. "They pushed harder than us the first 10 minutes. We weren't prepared mentally. We needed to be switched on from the start of the whistle. We need to have continued awareness to be ready as soon as the whistle blows."

LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta initiated the comeback with a goal in the 63rd minute off an assist by Blackmon before an empty stadium due to COVID restriction protocols. Both teams tested lineups and player substitutions but sought continuity in their limited preseason schedules. LAFC defender Jesus Murillo overall liked what he saw on the pitch. "It was an important game. The game was competitive and was the type of game that would be like in the preseason. It was the type of game where you find things to save and things to work on."

Both teams substituted players freely and tested lineup changes as the match wore on. LAFC's available rotation included, goalkeepers Tomas Romero (30), and Kenneth Vermeer (1); defenders, Kim Moon-Hwan (33), Tony Leone (28), Jordan Harvey (2), Marco Farfan (32), Mohamed Traore (3), and Alvaro Quezada, midfielders Francisco Ginella (8), Bryce Duke (19), and Erik Dueñas (18) and forwards Danny Musovski (16), Mahala (22), and Cal Jennings (26).

Baird talked about building chemistry with Vela and Rossi. "For me, it's trying to get to know these guys' tendencies, where they want the ball, the kinds of passes they're looking for. For them, what kind of runs I'm making, where I'm looking for the ball. But I think it's coming along, but I think we created some real good chances in the first half and it's definitely something to build off."

Last season's Golden Boot Award winner, Diego Rossi, equalized the game in the 90th minute with an easy put-away just before time expired. Rossi led the league with 14 goals last season in 19 matches, which gave LAFC consecutive Golden Boot winners following Vela's league record 34 goals in 31 matches during the 2019 season. The two have spearheaded LAFC's impressive offense since the club's Inaugural Season in 2018.

Murillo said, "We started doing well with what Coach wanted. We didn't come into the second half with the same concentration. It was a good thing that this happened in a friendly game. We have to continue and tighten up. It's not just one half, it is two. We have to work on the small details and reinforce the good things."

"I don't think we need to change anything," said Bradley. " I think we're still in preseason. The first month was building up guys, getting them going, reintroducing ideas. This is the first real match and we need to just continue the good work all the time," said Bradley. "We know from last year that we can be more consistent with the way we play but, overall, there's still a lot of moments of very good football."


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