Los Angeles FC are off and running with a win in their MLS debut, and the Vancouver Whitecaps were up to their old tricks on opening weekend.
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Bob Bradley‘s team is well-drilled and extremely organized
This will come as a shock to absolutely no one who watched Bradley’s U.S. national team, Egypt, Stabaek or Le Havre — the less said about Swansea City, the better — but LAFC looked like a team that had been playing together for years: prepared, organized, well-drilled and cohesive.
The knock on Bradley, going back to his USMNT days at the start of the decade, has always been that his teams are boring and unimaginative. He so rarely got credit for how defensively solid the Yanks were at a time when the American player pool sorely lacked creativity.
No such problem for LAFC, who spent big on Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, with above-average MLS recyclables in Marco Ureña, Latif Blessing and Benny Feilhaber filling out the midfield and wings. There’s just enough flair and creativity in that bunch, without sacrificing the defensive work rate and discipline required to remain plenty balanced and safe at the back.
If Vela and Rossi can continue combining for a bit of brilliance like that, creating something out of nothing, this team might just rise above expectations and make some noise in year one.
Playing direct isn’t pretty, but it’s still effective
The Vancouver Whitecaps were arguably the most direct team in the league last year, and then went out and traded for Kei Kamara this offseason. Kamara is, at his best, an unplayable aerial target and constant source of free kicks won.
Take a player like Kamara, give him speed on either wing like Cristian Techera and Alphonso Davies, and play to the man’s strengths: get the ball forward quickly, either to him or diagonally to the wingers and play fast. That’s exactly what Carl Robinson did on Sunday, as Vancouver blitzed the visiting Montreal Impact for a pair of goals shortly after the hour mark, then hung on for the 2-1 win after conceding a tragically soft goal in the 81st minute.
The obvious foil for a team that plays quick and direct is to sit a bit deeper, especially in their house, and get numbers in the areas of the field where second balls will fall off Kamara’s head. Remi Garde deserves a bit of credit for setting his team up to play the progressive possession game on the road, but on this occasion it played right into Vancouver’s hands.