FC Dallas has a double dip of games this week, with the same opponent in LAFC. Just like we try to do before most games, we have brought in a fellow SB Nation blogger to help preview our next game. Today we welcome in Angel on Parade’s Alicia Rodriguez to help give us a sense of how good this LAFC squad really is.
BDS: LA has come out of the gate this season extremely hot, with just one loss in 12 games. What has been the catalyst for the early season success? Are there any signs of a potential cooling off period?
AOP: It seems the success so far has been in large part due to continuity. It’s strange, since MLS and soccer overall is often defined by turnover, but LAFC brought in just one new starter, in Eddie Segura, and the players have spoken repeatedly about having more time trying to hone the style of play and work together. I think the results have been apparent in all facets of play.
Any signs of a cooling off? Maybe, they went through a four-game stretch recently when they went 1-1-2, and got shutout for the first two times this season. But they posted a promising win in Columbus last weekend and they seem to be in command of games throughout, regardless. Moving forward, the two big concerns will be injuries, a constant worry in this business, and call-ups for tournaments this summer. I expect the team has thought ahead on the second count, but you never know if taking a few players out will really bring the whirring machine to a halt, and that’s certainly possible.
BDS: Carlos Vela has been the front runner for MVP so far this season as well, but who else has been impressive to you this season?
AOP: As you would expect with a team that is atop the standings, all of the regular starters have been playing well, honestly. To highlight a few, the midfield band of Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta and shockingly, Latif Blessing (previously a wide attacker) has been stellar. All three players have elevated their games this year, and playing a crucial role in Bob Bradley’s lineup, with the midfielders all responsible for both defending and progressing the attack, they have been really terrific. That all three are young, with Kaye the oldest at 24, and they seem quite capable of continued improvement, which is very exciting for LAFC fans.
BDS: LA was a bit quiet like FC Dallas recently at the end of the primary transfer window in MLS. What kind of moves do you see the club making this summer to help them out in the final part of the season?
AOP: I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure. Barring a major injury (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen, of course) I get the sense that LAFC don’t want to make major changes this year, and with the team in first place, that strategy seems quite prudent. You can argue that LAFC could use better depth in some spots, but would they find many better players willing to be reserves? Maybe one or two, but the starting lineup is pretty settled at this stage.
One item to watch, however, is the status of Andre Horta, the forgotten third Designated Player. He’s only played one game this year, and he’s yet to get on any run and looked largely out of his depth when he has played, so I think it’s possible the summer could go two ways for him: Nothing could change with LAFC and he’ll get a chance to try and prove he belongs in the lineup, or either he will ask to leave or LAFC will aim to cut their losses and he’ll go on loan in his native Portugal or be sold. He’d most likely be sold at a loss, however, and no team wants to do that, so it’s a conundrum. It’s kind of a luxury conundrum, since LAFC are flying with him a bystander, but still something to watch.
BDS: (Bonus) Lineup prediction for Thursday’s game?
AOP: The tight turnaround means there will probably be a few changes, likely in the fullback spots and possibly central striker, but I think it’s likely to be much of the same on Thursday:
Tyler Miller; Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman, Eddie Segura, Jordan Harvey; Latif Blessing, Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye; Carlos Vela, Adama Diomande, Diego Rossi