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Week 31: A look ahead to LAFC

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LAFC is coming to Colorado this weekend for the first time - here’s what we can expect.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chivas Los Angeles FC is coming to town for the first time. Here’s how things look.

LAFC has been, by all accounts, a very successful expansion team. After coming into the league at the start of 2018, they have quickly shown how effective they can be. Between getting Bob Bradley as their head coach, the first American to coach in the Premier League (however briefly), an aggressive offense, and some smart acquisitions for their first-ever MLS roster, they have become one of the titans of the Western Conference.

Tactically, Bradley and LAFC have mostly stuck with a 4-3-3, which allows them to keep the pressure up with their offense. However, they’ve also very rarely played as a 4-4-2, which they most recently used against the San Jose Earthquakes. Thanks to some big moves during the summer transfer window, they have added in a fair number of strong players to their roster.

Let’s make one thing very clear here; LAFC is absolutely stacked in the offense, but their defense, less so. By no means a sieve, like we have seen with our Rapids and teams like Orlando, but still their weakness. I’d expect them to come out with a 4-3-3, but also wouldn’t be surprised if they see this as an easy three points and play some of their less experienced players.

Their goalkeeper is Tyler Miller, a 25-year-old who previously played with Seattle Sounders 2. Impressive stuff watching a USL keeper become a starter for LAFC. Keeping the pressure off of him is left back Jordan Harvey, centerback Danilo Silva, centerback Walker Zimmerman, and right back Steven Beitashour. Support for this back line includes Dejan Jakovic. They are a solid defense, but not the strongest. They’ve allowed 46 goals over their 30 games, and recently let Chicago Fire put three in on them. Given our lack of presence in the final third, I would not expect us to be making their defense show us how talented they can be.

LAFC’s midfield has Lee Nguyen, Eduard Atuesta, and Benny Feilhaber, and potentially their newest DP Andre’ Horta. He has been struggling to make the team as a starter, but only joined during the summer transfer window. Lee Nguyen came from New England Revolution, and left in not-so-peaceful terms with them. Eduard Atuesta came from the Colombian team Independiente Medellin. He had proven himself to be a starter for LA, even at the young age of 21, but has had some occasional injury issues. He seems to be fully back in the swing of things though now. Lastly, Feilhaber came from Sporting Kansas City and has been a mainstay with LAFC as well as the USMNT. However, his tenure with both the US national team and LAFC is up for debate, as he is getting to be an older player. He is 33 years old, and given the USMNT push to move the roster to a younger squad, I’d be surprised if he ever gets another call-up.

LAFC’s offense is easily their biggest strength. In their 30 games, they’ve scored 58 goals, so averaging nearly two goals per game. Unlike Atlanta, though, their goals come from a fairly diverse group. LA’s leading goalscorer is Carlos Vela, their first DP who came from Real Sociedad in La Liga. With 11 goals and 10 assists, he has been sitting pretty with the team. Behind him is their other DP, Diego Rossi. He’s got 10 goals and 8 assists himself, and he came from Peñarol, in the Uruguayan Primera Division. The two of them sandwich one of their newest signings, the striker fresh out of Minnesota United, Christian Ramirez. He has not played much and has only contributed two goals so far, but to be sure he will be a focus as the team moves forward. In third place for goals sits Adama Diomande, with 9 goals and 4 assists, and he has recently returned to the team after being juggled around in favor of new lineups. Basically, the top three players on their offense have more goals than the rest of the Rapids put together, minus oft-missed Badji. It is going to be less of a question of “will they score?” and more of “how many can they score?”

I don’t want to approach this from the standpoint of “how can we get three points?” because honestly, I don’t think we should. We have struggled heavily in the last six games, and have been outscored 19-1. After facing a team that has such a powerful offense, I don’t expect that to change in our favor. At this point, I’d much rather show that we have something to build towards for 2019. I want to see us play all of our homegrown and young players, even though seeing some of them is very unlikely. I would love to see Cole Bassett, Niki Jackson, Dillon Serna, and Kort Ford all take the field at the same time and even see our other players like Sam Vines, Sam Hamilton, and Ricardo Perez. But the chances of us recalling all of them at any point during these final few games is becoming increasingly unlikely.

Let’s show the fans at DSGP that despite this run of form, there are good things to come from this team, and indeed this front office, in the next season.

What do you all think? Do you think we can get a result out of LAFC, or should we prepare to hold back the floodwaters for as long as we can?