I said last week that a bit of luck and a bit of skill was all it took to change the narrative in a league as wacky as MLS. Against Vancouver, that definitely proved true. But the recipe for victory against the Whitecaps could not possibly be something one would want to replicate against Los Angeles. Or is it?
As Los Angeles FC is embarking on its first ever MLS campaign, and was built from scratch rather than evolving from a previous lower-tier team, the only interaction the two clubs have ever had was when the LAFC front office saw the Minnesota United logo for the first time and said “just make it look like that.”
Silviu Petrescu is officiating his first MLS game of the season Wednesday. In 2017, he was just above average in both fouls per game (25.6) and yellow cards per game (4.0), but also handed eight yellow cards for dissent, a departure from what we have seen from him in the past. The veteran Petrescu was awarded the MLS Referee of the Year prize in 2012 and helmed MLS Cup that year, as well.
D Tyrone Mears (lower right leg) – Out
D Marc Burch (left knee) – Out
M Sam Cronin (head) – Out
M Kevin Molino (torn ACL) – Out
M Ethan Finlay (torn ACL) – Out
F Abu Danladi (right ankle) – Out
F Mason Toye (suspension) – Out
M Ibson (did not travel) – Out
D Eric Miller (lower left leg) – Questionable
F Christian Ramirez (right hamstring) – Questionable
Los Angeles FC
GK Luis Lopez (right tibial stress fracture) – Out
F Marco Ureña (facial surgery) – Out
It is tough to give a precise tactical outlook of Wednesday’s game against Los Angeles FC given the short rest for both teams and the many missing players. In a sense, though, that uncertainty suggests a direction the Loons should perhaps take against the Western Conference powerhouse.
Once a position of relative strength and depth, Minnesota finds itself without an available and fully healthy starting forward. Christian Ramirez continues his return from an injury, Abu Danladi has been ruled out with injury, and Mason Toye will be serving a suspension for burying his funny bone inside of Kendall Waston’s chest cavity. The defense, meanwhile, continues to battle with full back outages. New toy Eric Miller is questionable after a late Vancouver knock, while Marc Burch and Tyrone Mears continue to battle longer term injuries. Even Ibson, a key catalyst in both directions on the field, did not travel and is taking the game off. Of the players that remain available, many will be playing on tired legs and short rest.
Going up against a team as stacked as LAFC, on the road, is always a challenge but doubly so under these conditions. However, the match provides a perfect opportunity to experiment. Darwin Quintero has more experience scoring goals in his career than he does with creating them, so what might he do as a lone striker instead of a No. 10? Could Miguel Ibarra return to the center of the park and use his pace and positional fluidity to pull defenders with him, as he did against Chicago in a similar role? What about Franz Pangop, the speedster who has experience playing as a right-sided midfielder, filling in for Ibarra on the wing?
With LAFC, this approach might even be preferable. Bob Bradley’s squad has a front six to compete with any team on this continent, but the defense is a bit of a liability, having given up three or more goals on three separate occasions already this season. The home side is going to own possession, and it is going to spend a lot of time knocking on the door. Though it may be emotionally crushing for a possession-minded coach like Adrian Heath, the best tactic for Minnesota may be to play the way they did after Toye’s red card against Vancouver: bunker, weather the storm, and then counter. On the counter, having a front midfield three of Alexi Gomez, Ibarra, and Pangop allows for speed and creative positioning, while Gomez and Ibarra especially are the attacking midfielders you want to track back and defend as necessary.
It is not the same as throwing the game away. It really may be the best way to steal a point or more from Los Angeles FC on the road. The club should not be signing guys that get nicknamed ‘The Scientist” if they are not down for a little experimentation.
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Tags: Abu Danladi, Alexi Gomez, Christian Ramirez, Darwin Quintero, Eric Miller, Franz Pangop, Ibson, Los Angeles FC, Marc Burch, Mason Toye, Match Preview, Migel Ibarra, Minnesota United FC, MLS, tyrone mears