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RSL vs. LAFC: Three Questions with Angels on Parade

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RSL’s first match against LAFC kicks off Saturday afternoon. We talked to the experts.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Seattle Sounders FC Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

1. How has LAFC shaped up on the field? We spent so long looking at stadium renderings, branding documents and lists of owners, that it becomes easy to overlook what’s actually happening.

Coming into the season, there were a lot of concerns regarding LAFC because they have a tiny roster. Even now, they have a total of 22 players, and in their first game they only had 17 players available for selection (and at least one of those players appears to still be too hurt to play). So on paper that sounds like a disaster.

Except...in the first game, LAFC won! They punched the Sounders in the mouth, scored early, and then played desperation defense for about an hour. Somehow it worked. For a first game, I think you take a win however you can get it. Realistically, there have to be concerns that LAFC’s thin squad will prove to be too weak to keep up all season. I certainly don’t expect them to stick with 22 players for a long time, but until the roster fills out some more, there may have to be some more smash and grab affairs like the opening match in Seattle.

2. Who’s the one player RSL should be most wary of? Is there a single player, or is it a group?

2. I think if LAFC are going to be successful, they have to get goals, and on the bright side the attacking unit of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, Latif Blessing and Marcos Urena look like they’ll be the real deal. The first three are players who are comfortable dropping deep and wide and making runs into the box, while Ureña does the hard work as a “second striker” up top while also putting in a shift defensively. I wouldn’t call this group the finished article, and after starting the game strong last week only Vela looked sharp for the full 90 minutes. But if Dallas’ speed and numbers on the attack could give RSL fits last week, I wouldn’t be surprised if LAFC tries a similar tactic.

3. What’s the thing that excites you most about finally having a non-Galaxy team in LA again?

Personally, the thing that most excites me about a non-Galaxy LA team again is getting a team to root for and cover. I think when faced with the elimination of one’s team, making lemonade from those lemons and staying engaged from a neutral perspective is a good exercise and can be insightful in looking at the 30,000-foot view of the league overall. But going three full seasons without a rooting interest in a team was very rough.

I think from a wider perspective, LAFC is good for Los Angeles because it opens up MLS to a new section of the local population and because it will force both LAFC and the Galaxy to step up their games in all ways to remain competitive locally. People outside the area often scoff at the “need” for two LA teams -- it seems eminently unfair when there are so many cities with no team. But to live in LA, you understand having two teams in all of the sports is absolutely natural and normal, and that there is more than enough people here for two teams. So building a new fanbase in a busy (and soccer-loving) area and giving both teams the extra motivation to strive for more should help them both, soccer in the LA area, and MLS overall.

Prediction: 1-1 draw. My heart wants to predict wins but my head wonders if they can pull it off again. Let’s settle for the fence.

Predicted lineup: Tyler Miller (GK); Joao Moutinho, Laurent Ciman, Dejan Jakovic, Steven Beitashour; Benny Feilhaber, Mark-Anthony Kaye; Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing; Marcos Ureña