New York City FC are on the road this weekend as they face off against Bob Bradley's LAFC at the Banc of California Stadium. Here are the Keys to the Match, presented by Tri-State Ford…
One of the central principles of Bob Bradley’s LAFC side is playing through the lines so the ball reaches the feet of their most influential attackers. The benefit of this style is that it can be difficult to defend against and beautiful to watch.
The risk, however, is that you can struggle against opponents that utilize a deep block defensively, or that try to force turnovers in your half. If we study the El Tráfico derby from this season we see some of those frailties in action.
Both of the LA Galaxy’s goals came via turnovers in LAFC’s half of the field, but the best example was Sebastian Lletget’s game-winning goal. As you can see below, a cheap turnover in the corner by LAFC allows the Galaxy to engineer a chance on goal through two passes.
NYCFC are no strangers to high pressing and have certainly benefitted from that strategy this season. The key to maximizing these opportunities often relies on being quick and decisive when you win the ball back.
That could make Maxi Moralez an influential player this weekend. If we go back to week one, NYCFC’s opener was in no small part down to Moralez’s quick-thinking when he played Anton Tinnerholm in behind.
The same was true for NYCFC’s opener against Columbus, only this time it was Keaton Parks with the quick-thinking. Ronny Deila will know this, however, and it could be an important factor to watch out for.
The False 9
It’s not difficult to pinpoint LAFC’s most influential player. Carlos Vela has provided some sparkling moments since arriving in Major League Soccer from Real Sociedad. Alongside Diego Rossi, he builds out a dangerous forward line for LAFC.
Although LAFC operate with a forward three, they operate somewhat differently compared to what we may expect. Rossi and Vela are not traditional wingers - keen to get to the byline and cross it in.
Equally, the central striker is more often than not a false nine. The role of a false nine is to drop deep, away from the opposition defensive line into pockets of space and connect the play.
At Barcelona, Pep Guardiola utilized Lionel Messi in this way to devastating effect.
"I wasn’t going to stay there, but rather come out and join up with the central midfield," Messi explained. "The idea was that Madrid’s center backs would follow me out, and the two fast wingers that we had would go around the back.”
The same principles are at play here. In Bradley’s system, the wingers sit narrow in the half-space (the area between the center-back and full-back) and look to influence the game there.
It’s unclear if Deila will choose a back three or a back four for this game, but the presence of a false 9 and two narrow wingers means delegating responsibilities and tracking players is essential.
The defenders will need to decide whether they drop deep and follow the false nine or hold their position and leave that to the midfield.
We’ve talked about the strength and depth NYCFC have this season and that trait was tested last weekend against the Columbus Crew.
The potential return of Alfredo Morales and Maxi Moralez could also lighten the treatment table and give NYCFC some reinforcements in key areas. Anton Tinnerholm has also traveled with the group, and that will offer the team a different option on the right.
A win against LAFC on the road is never an easy feat. The team’s last visit to the Banc of California Stadium resulted in an exhilarating 2-2 draw, and the hope now is that they can go one better and claim all three points thanks to the return of fresh faces.
New York City FC are in action at Banc of California Stadium against LAFC on Saturday, May 29 with kickoff taking place at 5:00 PM ET (UniMas/NYCFC.com/radio).