After clinching a playoff spot in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night against Sporting Kansas City, Minnesota United welcomes league-leading Los Angeles Football Club to Allianz Field for its final regular season home game of 2019. The last time these two sides met, a Mason Toye double stunned LAFC at Banc of California in the host’s first loss at home in MLS play in 2019. Without a doubt, the visiting LAFC will enter tonight hungry for revenge and full of intent to spoil Minnesota’s chances of hosting its first ever playoff game at Allianz Field. With Minnesota United fresh off a gargantuan playoff-clinching victory and LAFC recently awarded the 2019 Supporters’ Shield, tonight’s 90 minutes promises to be thrilling.
Downed by the Loons
Ever since Minnesota United defeated LAFC 2-0 at Banc of California Stadium, the Black-and-Gold have not looked up to scratch with the scintillating form that put them strides ahead of MLS throughout 2019. After taking a point from an enthralling El Tráfico, LAFC’s loss to Minnesota was its first in five games. Since that defeat, the Black-and-Gold have just one win in their last four games – include the LA Galaxy and MNUFC results and LAFC have just one win in their last six games. In that same stretch of six games, the Black-and-Gold have scored 10 goals and conceded 10 goals which looks good on paper but is a stark contrast to the 5 wins, 1 loss, 18 goals scored and 8 conceded LAFC put together in its previous six games. It could be due to LAFC getting comfortable sitting at the top of the standings but upon closer examination, some may suggest that teams are figuring how to play against them. Implementing a strategy like Head Coach Adrian Heath’s masterfully executed game plan in Minnesota’s win over LAFC, teams have begun to see success by defending in deep blocks, forcing LAFC to commit numbers forward to break down the opposing side, in turn leaving them vulnerable on the counterattack. Look for Adrian Heath’s side to execute a similar defensive strategy as LAFC visits Allianz Field for its first time.
Vela, Vela, Vela
While Minnesota’s road win against LAFC was undoubtedly a marquee result for the Loons, LAFC supporters will be quick to include an asterisk. Missing from that game due to a minor hamstring injury was Carlos Vela, the shoe-in for the 2019 Most Valuable Player in MLS, the cog that has been quintessential to much of the Black-and-Gold’s success and the league’s leading goal scorer. There has been a noticeable dip in LAFC’s form when Vela has gone missing from the starting XI, especially with his recent injury. Posting a 21-4-6 record in all competitions, LAFC have won over two-thirds of the games that Vela has started in. While he has only missed four games this season, LAFC have won just once in Vela’s absence. Take it a step further and the Black-and-Gold have scored just four times in those four games. Unless Los Angeles Football Club choose to rotate their squad to give some of its regular starters a bit of a rest before the playoffs, Carlos Vela will likely be back on the pitch and aiming to put his name on the scoresheet.