After an impressive inaugural season, Los Angeles Football Club is off to another great year. They have scored the most goals in MLS and allowed the fewest, and things don’t seem to be slowing down. The Colorado Rapids, on the other hand, are just gaining steam. We talked to Alicia Rodriguez from Angels on Parade to find out more about tonight’s opponent.
(You can see what Alicia asked me and what I had to say about how things have turned around and who is standing out this year right here.)
Burgundy Wave: There has been a lot of talk about Carlos Vela for MVP and it’s no secret that he’s a high-powered goal scorer, but a few teams have been able to keep him at bay. How did they do it?
Angels on Parade: I’d say the only team that’s stopped him this season was the Vancouver Whitecaps, the one game LAFC has lost so far. That was a weird one because LAFC rotated three-quarters of their defense and it showed, and the performance on the day didn’t quite click for anyone, Vela included.
On a broader point, I think it’s clear that with the rest of the team around Vela playing well, it frees him to just do his thing, and he’s playing better than he ever has in his career. Colorado could take some heart from LAFC missing Tyler Miller, Walker Zimmerman, and Mark-Anthony Kaye for Friday’s game, with all three players away at the Gold Cup, and all three vital starters. There’s a chance that the replacements could falter, and that could lead to a house of cards situation in response.
Alternately, in the last league game, Portland just started hacking the crap out of Vela. I assume opponents will do this at an increased rate in desperation. I think we’re all afraid that means he’ll get hurt, so here’s hoping opponents don’t resort to that.
BW: The LAFC defense has only let in 13 goals so far this season, the lowest GA in MLS. The Rapids, on the other hand, are averaging about 1.5 goals per game. What’s the secret to scoring on LAFC?
AoP: A large proportion of LAFC’s goals conceded have been due to mistakes or just unstoppable strikes. In most cases, you can cut down on the former but not usually do much about the latter as a defense. For the Rapids, they should score bicycle kicks?
Seriously though, I’d say there’s real potential on set pieces. Between Kei Kamara’s prowess in that department and the absences of Miller and Zimmerman in particular, the door could be open for a defensive breakdown, and that’s something the Rapids could capitalize on.
If that doesn’t work, burning them on the counterattack could do it, but this is a team that is generally prepared to recover in transition.
BW: Do you have any concerns about the players that are gone for international duty?
AoP: Definitely have some concerns, but LAFC had some opportunities to work through it in the U.S. Open Cup, where they beat Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes. Pablo Sisniega played in goal, and had a truly great game against San Jose in an elimination game, while Danilo Silva looked better than he has this season in those games in central defense in relief of Zimmerman. I’m least concerned about midfield, where Lee Nguyen replaced Kaye, and Nguyen came into the season as a starter before he was sidelined with minor injuries.
The other narrative here is that LAFC are about to embark on a truly crazy stretch of games, four in nine days after this one, so Bob Bradley could slowly rotate starting with this game to try and keep his players fresh for the hectic period ahead.
UPDATE from AoP: Danilo Silva is out tomorrow with a hamstring injury. Who will replace him? Ummm....I’m not sure. Could be Dejan Jakovic, Tristan Blackmon, or Lamar Batista. So that is a somewhat bigger concern at this point in that spot.
BW: Score prediction for the game?
AoP: I respect the Rapids, and LAFC looked a little rusty last week to start their Open Cup game against the Quakes, but I’m still confident they can continue to roll, so I’ll call it a 2-1 win for the visitors.