Bob Bradley’s team has the difficult task of repeating last year’s MLS Supporters’ Shield triumph. LAFC started the year in the best way possible, going through in the CONCACAF Champions League phase after beating León in the round of 16 and going undefeated in the MLS after beating Inter Miami and tying with Philadelphia Union.
With almost all of the same roster from last season, Bob Bradley will have to make variations to be able to bring Los Angeles to the top of the MLS this season. In this tactical analysis, we will detail some of these variants that were seen in the first matches of 2020.
In this analysis, we are going to see the different tactics that are present within the team. One of them is that LAFC always use a 1-4-3-3 system and they keep it going throughout the match. However, when the ball is in play, we notice how this changes and looks more like a 1-2-5-3 with the high positioning of the lateral defenders and the search for the internal midfielders between the rival’s lines.
As we see, this image corresponds to the average positions where the players participated in contact with the ball. We can appreciate how lateral defenders are so important in the offensive moment at the time.
As you can see above, the lateral defenders are so important for the LAFC offence because they seek to generate numerical superiority to allow the progression of the attack. Many of the times they receive the ball both on the wing and through midfield, but if they realise it in the second leg against León, they played a fundamental role in the match.
They positioned on the central lanes between lines of the rival. In the first match versus León they presented a compact defensive block and looked for numerical equality in the middle. This was achieved with a striker to mark the central midfielder Ginella and with the lower midfielders from LAFC equal with the central midfielders from León. With this, free men were also generated in the outer areas to match the LAFC side defenders in their additions to the attack.
To counter this, the ex-coach from Swansea now at the EPL, Bob Bradley in the second leg positioned the defenders on the inside lanes to achieve numerical superiority and thus have a more interior pass. At the same time, it generated uncertainty for the external midfielder and the lateral defence, since it placed them in the middle, between the rival midfielder and the defence so that if the external midfielder were to mark him, he would expand the spaces between sectors and allow the pass interior with the lateral defender. If the lateral defender marked it to the outside, this space was generated between players with the central defender and that space was used with an interior midfielder.
If we see the average positions again we can also see that the wings are often not providing the breadth of the team because the offensive game in LAFC focuses on the inside lanes. If we see the positions of the forwards, the only one that maintains the breadth on the pitch is Brian Rodríguez is in the left sector, but as much as Diego Rossi or Carlos Vela when it is their turn to fulfil the function of ends, we can notice that they start from the wide to the internal lanes.
Through the heat maps of the forwards, I wanted to explain how Rodríguez is the only one of the three who maintains a position throughout the game that is on the left-wing. This is due to his great individual technique to win the offensive duels through dribbles and also for his other great strength which is the speed he has. He is the player who has won the most offensive duels so far this season in the MLS. From the LAFC game when the team is in organized defence, he seeks to stay off the hook in the rival field, mainly so that through him the team begins the offensive transition and can take advantage of the spaces left by the rivals for attacking.
In these comparisons, we see how LAFC is one of the teams with the most offensive duels and dribbles in the MLS so far this season and the influence that Rodriguez has on them.
Here we can see what the percentage of the attacks according to the lane where it is carried out and we can observe that the left lane where Rodríguez plays is the most dangerous with 47%.
On the other hand, in the case of the right-wing, the job is being exchanged between Rossi and the former La Liga star Vela, although it seems that they have similar characteristics. Bob Bradley uses one or the other in the team depending on the rival he is going to face.
In the case of rivals like Leon, who are going to propose a compact defensive block and the game will be difficult for them to reach the strikers, they want to position Vela by side since, being a more technical player, he can propose games like the one already analyzed against Leon. and allow the game to band with him to progress.
When Rossi plays as a striker, he is not used as a benchmark in the area, but instead seeks to play freely across the entire attack front so that he does not have a brand benchmark and can provide a pass option on foot or in-depth to take advantage of its great speed.
In these images, we can see how D.Rossi reaches the end zone through the three lanes of the field. Although he has converted three goals so far this season and having an xG of 3.51, he comes to these areas to assist his teammate to finish.
Another of LAFC strengths is the reaction after losing the ball. When the loss is in the opposing side, they immediately seek to recover it as high as possible to continue with the team’s offensive phase.
To achieve this, certain mechanisms are met: the player closest to the loss presses the possessor of the ball and the other nearby players cut nearby opponent’s passing lanes while the players who are in the middle distance are attentive to act in case the rival overcome this pressure.
From the statistics, the team is one of the ones that recover the most balls on average in the MLS. They are fourth where we observe that the 55% of the recoveries occur in the opposite field and according to the pressing intensity metric, they are the third-lowest team that perform passes in defensive actions.
The PPDA is opponent passes per defensive action in the opponent’s final 60% of the pitch. A well-studied metric used to qualify pressing intensity.
As we can see in the following images in all defensive transitions in the upper zone of the rival field, LAFC tries to recover the ball immediately through generating numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch to avoid the pre-attack of the rival in the lost zone.
So, in this tactical analysis, we see variations that Bob Bradley’s team presented in the MLS and Concacaf Champions League.