A match that needs no introduction. Except, well, you’re going to get one. It’s LAFC vs Seattle Sounders. What’s not to love about this one? We asked Alicia Rodriguez from Angels on Parade a few questions ahead of
Sounder at Heart: So, I guess I should ask about what it’s like to go from winning 6-0 against Vancouver to losing 2-1 to San Jose at home? I’m genuinely baffled by LAFC this year, can you help me understand what’s going on?
Angels on Parade: There’s three factors at play. One is that the team clearly seems pretty tired, and so the San Jose game featured them somehow having to hang on for dear life for the final 30 minutes or so even though they could have easily put the game away had they scored a couple more of their excellent chances. Surprisingly, San Jose ate their Wheaties or whatever and pretty much put in 90 minutes of work, and LAFC wilted. I think all MLS teams are tired now, and I think it’s a valid reason for inconsistency.
The fatigue is compounded by injuries, right now impacting Carlos Vela and Tristan Blackmon. Bob Bradley just said today Vela will probably be back sometime in the next month, which honestly sounds right for his injury, which tends to take 3-5 months of intermittent recovery anyway. Blackmon’s coming back from a hamstring injury, with Bradley saying last week he’s “games” away, so he’s probably not ready against the Sounders. Given Blackmon is key at both center back and right back (impossible but true!) his absence is big, even if he’s struggled at times against the Sounders historically.
And so the third factor is they’re inconsistent. They haven’t won back-to-back games in league play yet this year, which is a big surprise, and they’ve only won consecutive games across competitions once in 2020. They’re missing the ability to perform every time and get results, and that is the biggest reason to be puzzled over this weird season for LAFC so far.
SAH: Diego Rossi is with Uruguay, right? Is LAFC missing anyone else because of International Duty?
AOP: Yep, four starters total, actually. In addition to Rossi, Brian Rodriguez is with Uruguay, and Rodriguez has already elevated his game for his country this week again. And then left back Diego Palacios and midfielder Jose Cifuentes are with Ecuador.
As for replacements, Bradley all but confirmed Francisco Ginella will start in Cifuentes’ place, and I think Mohamed El-Munir will get the nod at left back, although it could be Jordan Harvey. Up top is a bit more of a question. Danny Musovski is the only reserve who’s been scoring this year, and I think he starts, but the other forward line role could go to Adrien Perez, or maybe Latif Blessing moves all the way up from right back, and then they’d have to plug right back, etc.
I think for the attackers in particular, it’s a “Show me what you can do” challenge from Bradley, although obviously missing Rossi and Vela means the attack will be without both of its two best players for the first time ever. We’ll see what happens.
SAH: It’s clear that LAFC isn’t the 2019 LAFC, for a lot of reasons. What needs to happen for LAFC to have a “good” 2020 season?
AOP: It’s not a normal year, in so many ways. I think seeing sports return at all has been kind of a miracle.
My expectations and the team’s expectations are different. For me, reaching the playoffs and winning at least a game in the postseason are minimum targets. I think the team is aiming higher, but I think injuries, a series of roster departures — some forced, some not — and no proper summer transfer window to retool, and now the fixture pileup, means they know in their heart of hearts they are not on top of the world right now. If players get healthy and stay that way, if they can grind out some wins, and find some form in defense, can they make a deep run in the playoffs? Absolutely they can. But the margin for error is gone and so I think reaching the playoffs and making any kind of run is a decent expectation for a very weird 2020.