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Massive Scouting: LAFC

A look at Saturday’s Black & Gold opponent.

MLS: US Open Cup-Orange County SC at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a 2-0 loss at Yankee Stadium to New York City FC last Saturday, the Columbus Crew’s difficult stretch of matches continues as LAFC visits Lower.com Field this Saturday afternoon. Despite losing each of the team’s last two matches, Los Angeles is tied for first in the Western Conference and in the Supporters’ Shield standings and looks to be real contenders for the club’s first-ever trophy in 2022.

The original Black & Gold in Major League Soccer will look to take advantage of their extra rest, after losing to Austin FC on Wednesday, and get back to winning ways at home. Here’s a look at what’s to come Saturday afternoon.

LAFC at a Glance:

Record: 7-2-3, 23 points

League Form: L-L-W-D-W

Leading Scorer: Carlos Vela (5)

Assist Leader: Josè Cifuentes (3)

Player to Watch: Carlos Vela

Pound for pound, Vela is probably the best player in MLS. The 33-year-old Mexican international has torn the league apart since joining LAFC in December of 2017. After a lukewarm spell in Europe, Vela has returned to North America and has become arguably the most well-known figure in MLS.

Vela has been both the top scorer and an MLS MVP previously and is a huge part of LAFC’s success. Despite several battles with injury, Vela has scored 72 goals in 114 matches with LAFC.

Known for his trademark curling finishes from outside the penalty box, Vela excels in attacking transition and 1 v. 1 battles. The Crew backline will need to be mistake-free in order to keep Vela’s role minimized on Saturday.

How LAFC plays:

Head coach Steve Cherundolo has hardly missed a beat since replacing the recently-departed Bob Bradley this offseason. While a mildly controversial appointment at the time, Cherundolo has stuck his landing in Los Angeles. LAFC still employs a high-tempo, high-possession style of soccer. The team can often dominte possession against opponents and has been very good on the counter attack this year, thanks in large part to the attackers ability in 1 v. 1 situations.

Defensively, LAFC typically looks to press pretty high up the field and this should be the same against Columbus. This game has the making of one that is aesthetically pleasing and could feature lots of goals.

How the Crew can win:

The Black & Gold can send a message here with a victory at home. Not only getting back to winning ways but also defeating LAFC, which isn’t an easy task for any MLS side.

The keys to the game for Columbus are simple this week. The Crew must be compact defensively and keep possession when possible.

Being compact is a must in most games, but especially against the likes of Vela and his counterparts. Any space available will likely be exploited by LAFC and the Black & Gold will need to do a good job of rotating side to side and have good defensive cover in order to slow down the LAFC attack.

Columbus is better at controlling matches when the team has the majority of the ball. In addition, LAFC is almost always looking to be the ball-dominant side. If the Crew can keep possession at a decent rate, the team will be able to control parts of the match as well as make LAFC uncomfortable.

Additionally, the Black & Gold must be dangerous on the counter attacks. LAFC’s attacking shape is expansive and pushes a lot of numbers forward. If the Crew can attack in transition, there will be opportunities. Early chances for Columbus on the counter attack could force LAFC to make adjustments to the visiting team’s attacking shape, which they will be uncomfortable to be doing.