LOS ANGELES, CALIF. (June 9, 2019) – Bob Bradley and Los Angeles FC return to action this week, when they travel to Utah to begin their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup journey. Already head and shoulders above the rest of the league in terms of MLS play this year, the chance for the double starts with a familiar face.
Real Salt Lake will play host to LAFC for their fourth round U.S. Open Cup match. The last time LAFC faced a win or go home situation, was in the playoffs last season, when none other than Real Salt Lake sent them packing.
Bob Bradley, Short-handed LAFC look to pass road test against Real Salt Lake
A 2-1 victory over RSL earlier this season provided a sense of vengeance, but this would cement it. However, things won’t be as easy for the visitors. With the Gold Cup set to begin in the coming days, those who will participate have already left in preparation.
For LAFC, that’s M Mark-Anthony Kaye, M Peter Vassell, D Walker Zimmerman, and GK Tyler Miller. Not only is it a nice amount of players, but they are players who have played key roles in the success of LAFC this season. Fortunately, it has been known for some time those likely to depart, so preparations for this very moment had been underway.
LAFC will be thrilled to know that one player has been left off his respective country’s roster. Captain and MVP favorite, Carlos Vela, was not selected for Mexico. Having declined a call-up earlier in the season, and given the history, this comes as no surprise. Vela staying means the attack remains intact, and given current form, means the advantage goes to Los Angeles. Vela will be looked to heavily this match, while a goal is expected, this is also a perfect match to play set-up man, adding to his assist tally.
Bob Bradley Seeking Fill Ins
In addition to those away on International duties, LAFC have had to fight with a few injury problems as well. Steven Beitashour is recovering from a hamstring injury and M Javi Perez recently suffered a torn ACL. Goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega, will get his first start in place of the absent Miller.
Defensively, expect 22-year-old Tristan Blackmon, to receive most of the minutes at right back. With Zimmerman away, Danilo Silva will likely be the one to step in at center back.
While Kaye’s absence isn’t to be taken lightly, LAFC still have the in-form Atuesta and energetic Blessing. Lee Nguyen would be the favorite for the third midfield spot, but given recent reports, it is possible Andre Horta makes an appearance to improve his value. For LAFC, the key will be relying on those there that know the style they need to play.
Defense is critical
Seems obvious enough: Keep the opponent out of the back of the net. However, with your best defender along with your starting goalkeeper, both away on International duty, it will be easier said, than done. Luckily for LAFC, Real Salt Lake have not exactly been a wall at the back. Over their last two matches, they conceded six goals, losing by a combined 6-2. The key in this match will come down to whether or not Sisniega can not only get help from his front four, but whether he can step up and perform, in the chance that he doesn’t.
LAFC have shown time and time again this season that they are up for any challenge. This should be no different. While it is never ideal to have to play down so many key players, if there is one team that can adjust, it is this team. Blackmon has been phenomenal in his short time at right back this season, and Vela has shown he can score almost at will. A big match for the No. 10 should be enough to see LAFC advance to the next round of the tournament. 3-2 LAFC victory, in a bit of poetic justice.