Los Angeles FC started its campaign strongly, winning all league games, and beating León in the CONCACAF Champions League’s round of 16.
LAFC used a 4-3-3 formation in all their games this season as this formation fits Bradley’s defensive and offensive phase ideas, which will be explained deeply later.
LA also use four players in the backline, a pivot player, two attacking midfielders, and three players in the front line.
Los Angeles FC are direct in the play, and the build-up phase does not take much time for them. Their backline don’t play a lot of short passes. Instead, they try to reach the opponent’s half with the fewest possible passes and attack in the opponent’s box.
The is a passing map for the Los Angeles FC players during the build-up of the play process. We can see there are not many passes between the defenders. All the players are looking to play passes into the opponent’s half, or long shots behind the opponent’s backline.
As seen in the passing map, with all the players who contribute during the play build-up, most of their passes are towards the sides.
Then the full-back will move forward, and one of the midfielders will move towards the touchline, forming a triangle with a wing, as shown in this picture.
Then they will try to play short and fast passes intelligently or use the players’ ability to dribble, where the attacking trio have an average of 30 dribbles per game.
Thanks to these methods, they can create numerical superiority, or pull the opponent players back creating a gap in their backline. When they create a gap in the opponent’s defence structure, they will quickly move to exploit it and hit into the opponent’s box.
This figure completes the previous one: after they formed the triangle and pulled León’s centre-back, Carlos Vela moved quickly in the space left by Stiven Barreiro.
Bob Bradley gives his forwards the freedom to move in the final third, this helps them create numerical superiority in the middle of the field, and gives them greater control over the ball. The average possession reached 57.29% per game.
This is a heat map of the LAFC strikers’ movements, showing that players are free to move, and are rotating positions continuously.
Here, striker Rossi went back, giving LAFC a numerical advantage in the middle of the field.
Freedom to move and rotation of positions will interrupt the opponent’s player’s focus. This creates spaces in the opponent’s backline that can be well-exploited by Bradley’s team.
In this figure, Rossi goes back to be joined by Inter Miami’s centre-back to mark him, while former Arsenal player Vela moved quickly in the space and asked for the ball.
Bob Bradley tries to depend on the speed of the duo Rossi and Brian Rodriguez by playing long balls behind the opponent’s backline.
In this picture, full-back Jordan Harvey played a long ball towards Rodriguez behind the opponent’s backline. This helps them a lot, in terms of transition, or in case they were able to provoke the opponent’s pressure.
Bob Bradley focuses a lot on pressure, their PPDA rate reached of 9.27, and hit 6.83 against Inter Miami.
This picture shows that Los Angeles FC retrieved many balls in the last third. Most balls are retrieved by pressing.
The main reason why LAFC’s pressure is so effective is because of their offensive style. They are attacking with seven players, and as we mentioned earlier, they often try to form a triangle on the sides and break into the opponent’s box.
This large number of players, close to each other, gives the team the ability to press and surround the area where they lost the ball.
In this picture, after losing the ball, LAFC can surround the area where they lost the ball, and get it back.
The same thing happens here: Los Angeles FC were marking the nearby passing options, and the ball bearer had to play a long ball.
If the opponent managed to overcome their pressure, they would go back, simultaneously, they will form a high block, to reduce the opponent’s playing area. This way, the opponent will be forced to play back passes, then Bradley’s team will press forward and try to retrieve the ball in the final third.
This is a map of the players’ positioning, showing how the team is playing with a high block.
Set-pieces are very important because they occur without any pressure on the ball holder, and therefore the ratio of their conversion will be very high.
Bradley did well on this point, and LAFC have got some tactics that helped to take advantage of the set pieces.
Here, one player positions himself before the goalkeeper to block the vision. Three or four players are in the 18 lines, and once the player in the corner kicks the ball into the empty six-metre zone, they would go after it to score.
This is another method, several players are positioned next to the back post, pulling the opponent’s players towards them, then the ball coming from the corner will hit the empty near post.
If Los Angeles FC want to play the corner in the back post, some players will move towards the near post, and pull the opponent’s players back, until they create a space in the back post.
How to beat Los Angeles FC
As mentioned in the previous section, the most important offensive strengths of LAFC are the wings, through which they drag the opponent, and create spaces in their backline.
The free movement of the strikers in the final third interrupts the opponent’s concentration and creates spaces in the opponent’s defensive structure.
The speed of Rossi and Rodriguez is also important, and Bradley uses them to knock the opponent’s backline. So we could say that the best way to stop their attack is to play with a tight and low block of players.
This way, you will prevent them from dragging your players towards the sides. Even the strikers’ moves will not be effective because your team has a large number of players to cover the spaces.
Of course, he will not be able to play long balls behind your backline, because your team plays with a tight and a low block.
This way, you will force them to play crosses, and this is the biggest offensive weakness of Los Angeles FC, as their crosses rate is only 24.5%.
This figure shows that the team had a problem playing crosses, most of which were unsuccessful. The best player in terms of crosses is Diego Palacios, with a success rate of 21.4%.
Most of their players are young, and this means that they lack experience.
In this picture, despite Rodriguez putting his team in a 4 to 2 position, he preferred to dribble the opponent. This is due to a lack of experience.
These player statistics show that the number of goals and assists is less than expected, due to the poor decision-making and lack of experience.
As we can see, their numbers are bad, and if they encounter an opponent that closes the spaces of the final third very well, these numbers will get worse.
Now to the offensive phase, I do not think that breaking their pressure with short passes will be a good idea because there is an easier and a better solution, which is to target the sides because the full-back is constantly advancing.
Inter Miami and Philadelphia tried to take advantage of this point; in this picture, Inter Miami takes advantage of Harvey’s lead and plays a long ball in the space he left.
The idea of winning the second ball also sounds good, because Los Angeles FC defence has some problems with high balls.
Bob Bradley used his previous experiences in the MLS and Ligue 1. He built a good team and is now competing for the league title. After losing the title in the last round of last season, it seems LAFC are ready to be crowned this time.