During the 2022 MLS season, LAFC plays a game in two halves, both of which ultimately lead to success. After a scoreless first half, the club still found the back of the net within 45 seconds.
For black & gold, it’s not about possession, more than creating opportunities when it counts. LAFC scores goals in a multitude of ways from a multitude of players. As a result, the Falcons earned their status as overwhelming favorites to win the Western Conference and, eventually, the MLS Cup.
Still, LAFC’s ambitious signings signal more intent than just domestic success. Recent acquisitions include former Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Welsh striker Gareth Bale. Bale is a particularly attractive signing due to his added threat to opponents. Despite the Welshman using LAFC as his pre-World Cup tune-up, his debut season in MLS is nonetheless remarkable.
Already there, Bale joins a number of other strong options for one of the newest teams in America’s top soccer league.
The pillars of the franchise
Carlos Vela, another flagship for LAFC, has signed a 18 month contract extension back in June. Combine Vela with the goalscoring prowess of Cristian Arango. Clearly, LAFC is displaying an already successful offensive strategy.
LAFC manager Steve Cherundolo has the option to bring either Bale or Arango off the bench as the lethal 12th man. Meanwhile, Vela resumes her role as point guard with the cast. Interchangeable options connect seamlessly. Moreover, Bale offers the depth. Back-to-back games often wear down the stalwarts of the starting XI.
Jose Cifuentes is another option for the American boss. Cifuentes is another name to feature from LAFC at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar as he represents Ecuador. For LAFC, he offers another clinical option at the helm of the attack. Most notably, his two headers scored in their 3-2 win over cross-town rivals LA Galaxy lit a fuse.
LAFC’s defense isn’t exactly shorthanded either. Cifuentes’ compatriot Diego Palacios is the first-choice left-back for LAFC. He is a complex defensive piece alongside Chiellini.
Unlike many MLS teams, LAFC never hits the ball without a goal. Their attackers force opposing defenders to pursue on the flank. Therefore, this creates space inside the 18-yard box. Additionally, these forwards use their speed to lunge into a hole, then fire a shot into the goalmouth, catching the sleeping keeper.
Together, this stacked list executes their trademark display of “overlapping series.” This tactic creates a decoy for opposing defenders to follow. The space thus created allows opportunities for a ball handler in the box. Bale, Vela, Arango or any other player can use a quick release with an instant shot from the dribble. The ball maraudes into the back of the net with ease to the side.
A new morale
Giorgio Chiellini’s moxie influences the morale of the group. Since the arrival of the Italian captain, LAFC has played without urgency. Instead, he takes his time in the defensive third, only pushing forward at the right times. Before Chiellini’s arrival, the blacks and golds were quick to attack in the final third. This level of urgency has not always worked in favor of LAFC.
Nonetheless, Chiellini’s infamous handball against Real Salt Lake proved that even a nine-time Scudetto champion could make a mistake by pressing too high. Constant pressure exposes the defense to breakaways from the opposing team.
With an increased level of defender facilitation, there is a decrease in Carlos Vela activity. But, ultimately, it results in conserved energy. As a result, the former Mexican national transmutes energy during heist plays, retaining possession of the ball as forwards make runs.
Hybrid LAFC Strategies for Success
Turning defense into offense is part of why LAFC is the most successful MLS team this season.
LAFC changes its style with each respective game. Their current team uses each position to its full potential. Various players score goals, capitalizing on the keepers and the occasional screamer from outside the box.
As a result, they can top teams like Charlotte FC, winning 4-1 by conceding a consolation goal. He can also win the close games, like a narrow 2-1 win at Nashville in what has been a tied game all round.
This stems from the use of different tactics. Blitzing the opposition for goals is a common and fun strategy. However, LAFC beat Wayne Rooney’s DC United with a goal. The team fell back and prevented a 10-man DC United from grabbing an equaliser. LAFC keep their form and let their opponent come after them. As a result, they control space, not the ball.
Individually, Cristian Arango is on a roll, scoring goals all season. A reliable finisher like Arango uses his peripheral vision and awareness of the goalpost to capitalize on tough plays. The Colombian striker allows Vela to create space as LAFC have shown he is scoring goals through the middle. Bombing the center infiltrates midfield, throwing defenders off balance.
In addition, Vela has gained momentum as a playmaker. As a second striker, he creates chances for forwards, often using the outside of his left with his famous “Hollywood pass” – a long ball seemingly harmless. Even then, as Gareth Bale transitions into his role in the starting XI, Arango has shown his shift, becoming more Vela-like with play and setting Bale up for finishes.
The heart of LA
There is a real camaraderie at LAFC, unlike many clubs whose players have ulterior motives. Often these players refrain from switching to a very open teammate because they don’t want the other player to steal the show from them. With LAFC, that’s not the case – they’re completely selfless.
Nicknamed ‘The 3252’, the staunch sponsorship of 3,252 fans filling the bleachers at the north end of Banc of California Stadium sing along to a never-ending beat that lasts 90 minutes. With such a fantastic fan union and awesome ownership, LAFC’s success could make them the best team in CONCACAF.
PHOTO: Fernando Leon/ISI Photos/Getty Images