League leaders have won just two of their last five games
Before the 2019 season, LAFC’s head coach, Bob Bradley, gave his Designated Player Carlos Vela an enormous challenge: to become the Lionel Messi of MLS. From what we can see, the Mexican striker formed at Arsenal seems to have accepted the feat, currently leading the league in goals (14) and assists (seven), while his team is alone at the top of MLS standings. But other than what the statistics say, Vela is proving that he’s probably one of the best players in the league, taking on the role of feeder, creator, and finisher. To sum up, Rémi Garde’s men have their work cut out for them.
On the other end, the Impact has proven that it can get the job done on the road, finding ways to hinder teams with powerful offensive units. Injuries among the group are starting to dwindle, and Designated Player Nacho Piatti has already seen some action, last Saturday at Stade Saputo, training hard as well the following week. Rémi Garde will have to make do without Samuel Piette, however, suspended because of an accumulation of yellow cards, and without Omar Browne, still unavailable due to injury. All things considered, here are three things to watch out for in Banc of California Stadium.
- Quick transitions
LAFC often occupies the opposing third with seven, sometimes eight players. Defending in this type of scenario can be delicate to say the least, but once the defense recovers the ball, opportunities to counter are abundant. It’ll be up to the Impact to be decisive in these situations, especially on the road.
- Marking in the defense third
Vela, Rossi, and co. love combing in the offensive third and don’t mind starting over, even if a good opportunity presents itself. In this type of situation, it could be tempting to blindly put pressure on the player in possession, leaving other forwards wide open. Montreal will need to be patient and avoid getting dribbled past in important areas of the pitch, while also winning the majority of its duels.
- Shots from outside the box
It’s a good thing that Evan Bush is a gym rat: his legs should propel him more than once in this one due to the threat posed by shots from outside the box from Vela and Rossi. The Californian Designated Players can take powerful shots as much as they can curl one into the top corner; a strong performance from Bush and preventive coverage are good ingredients to avoid conceding such a goal.