There’s no way around this being a tough game for RSL. They’re coming off a midweek game, a coaching change, and then host the forerunner for the 2019 Supporters Shield. Our friends at Angels On Parade were kind enough to answer a few of our questions ahead of this western conference clash.
Carlos Vela leads the league in both goals and assists, but LAFC has scored an incredible 65 goals so far this season. Aside from Vela, what has made their attack so effective?
I think there are a few factors at play. The team is intended to have multiple options -- they are not made to simply pump balls up to Vela and hope he’s magic -- and the style they play is meant to overwhelm opponents with numbers and score by various means. On top of that, Vela’s role has been key. He leads the league in goals and assists and he has passed up around five likely goals to try and set up his teammates and make sure they’re involved, too. Sometimes those teammates score, sometimes they don’t, but the other players aren’t there to feed Vela, but to work as a team. It make sound hokey, but they are attacking as a team and pretty much everyone is getting a chance to get in on the goals, and unsurprisingly spirits are high as a result.
The team has kept a clean sheet just once in their last ten games — what seems to be the weakness in defense?
Probably the biggest issue has been the goalkeeping situation. On one hand, they do look like they have two starter-caliber GKs in Tyler Miller and Pablo Sisniega, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But we’re in a weird moment where the players are trading off appearances for various reasons (international duty, injury, form) and their styles are a bit different. Sisniega seems to be a monster as a shotstopper, but he has work to do in distribution. Miller is an ace distributor and his positioning tends to be stellar, but he’s working his way back to form after being the only USMNT not to play during the Gold Cup, which seemed to wreck his rhythm. Both goalkeepers take risks at times and lately each has been caught out for it. With the ‘keepers having ups and downs and the defense needing to play a tiny bit different depending on who is between the posts, it’s led to some slips, and it’s cause for some concern ahead of the playoffs.
LAFC seem to be running away with not only the western conference, but also the Supporters Shield — what are fans’ expectations around trophies this season? Does the hope of both the Shield and MLS Cup seem to be an expectation?
I would say I slowplay trophy expectations in general (it’s a defense mechanism) but LAFC must win the Shield at this point. If they were to cough up this huge lead, it would be a failure, no two ways about it.
As for MLS Cup, should LAFC be the favorites for it coming in? Yes, they are in the midst of earning that status with their season-long performance. But we all know that the playoffs are a different beast, and teams need to be good (and sometimes lucky) in a series of one-off games. I think fans will expect a double, and that’s reasonable to aim for, but let’s get one trophy, regroup for the new competitions of the playoffs, and then go for another.
You can read our responses to Alicia’s questions at Angels On Parade.