Preview: Houston host LAFC after quick turnaround for league leaders

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LAFC vs. Houston
KANSAS CITY, KS — JULY 03: Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Gutierrez (21) makes a cut in front of Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye (14) in the first half of an MLS match between LAFC and Sporting Kansas City on July 03, 2019 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Los Angeles, Calif. (July 11, 2019) — Having to bounce back from a loss is never easy. However, for LAFC, despite not having to do much bouncing back, have performed well in matches after a loss. With a record of 2-0-0 after a loss, and a combined scoreline of 9-2, Los Angeles look to add the Houston Dynamo to the list of unlucky teams who’ve had to play an angry LAFC.

Houston host LAFC after US Open Cup loss, no days rest

Fortunately for the Dynamo, they may see most of the normal threats for Los Angele on the bench. Having played their last match not even 48 hours ago, LAFC will almost surely rest a majority of their top players. In addition to the short turnaround is one-eye everyone has on the looming rivalry match. One thing LAFC have shown recently has been their ability to win games even with a rotated squad.

However, that doesn’t make this one any easier.

Squad Rotation

Playing so quickly after a match, especially as one as physical as with Portland, is never ideal. In addition, Carlos Vela had an apparent knock in the last match that will all but cement his place on the bench. The good news is the likely return of Tyler Miller, who has not seen competitive action in over a month.

Another start for Tristan Blackmon is in the cards, with the biggest concern for LAFC being the midfield. It’s likely two of Eduard Atuesta, Mark Anthony-Kaye or Latif Blessing start the match on the bench. This means there could be another chance for Peter Vassell to build on his potential. Whichever combination of players get the start, most important will be keeping possession and limited the poor touches in the defensive third.

House that Houston built

Similar to LAFC, the Houston Dynamo have turned their home into a fortress. Unbeaten, with a record of 7-0-3, the Dynamo will be ready to defend that streak with everything they have. Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis will look to attack the left side of LAFC’s defense and test the possibly rusty Miller early on. Even coming away with a point would be huge for Houston. It would keep the unbeaten run in tact.

Every Match Matters

This is one of those matches that LAFC might look back on as one that got away if they aren’t careful. It has been surprising to hear many supporters calling for Los Angeles to essentially throw this match, resting all the starters in anticipation of LA Clasico with the Galaxy. That is absurd, it would never happen and frankly shouldn’t. Bob Bradley will rest those who need it. However, it would be very surprising if it was an entire squad rotation. This team still very much wants to win, and they need to win.

Finishing top of the league doesn’t just get you the Supporter’s Shield, it gives you home field in the playoffs. As it stands, LAFC are only seven points clear in that regard and more importantly, they’re only nine points ahead of the Galaxy in the West. With plenty of points left to play for, its important LAFC take every game as serious as they can. They’ve already dropped points to inferior opponents this season and they can’t afford to do it much more.

Prediction

Depending on the lineup Bradley rolls out, the biggest concern for LAFC could be the midfield. If both Rossi and Vela are on the bench, scoring could be hard to come by as well. Los Angeles isn’t the team to sit back and play for the point or park the bus, so expect them to come out for the full three per usual.

Houston for their part, have been a completely different team at home. With a weakened Los Angeles coming to visit, they will be looking to take points off the league leaders. This will likely be a battle of who can keep possession and make the best of a counter-attack. In the end, I predict both teams come away with a point, with a 2-2 final.

 

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