LAFC, once a reliable offensive juggernaut, melted under the humid Texan air, for the second time in a month, this time falling 2-0 to fifth place FC Dallas, failing to finish one of their ten attempts to score. Less than a month ago, they were similarly unable to find the back of the net against a hungry Houston. Historically, LAFC has not won in Texas since 2021.
Last weekend, LAFC also had the advantage of playing at home against yet another team they were known to defeat. A quick glance reveals easy excuses and answers: weather, scheduling, fatigue. “I’m not sure any other club in MLS history has had this many games at this stage,” bemoaned head coach Steve Cherundolo, as he pointed out the match was the 29th of the team’s hectic year.
Yet, MLS veteran Kellyn Acosta, returning to the pitch and playing 45 minutes after missing 7 matches due to injury, said, pushing aside their logistical misgivings, “At the end of the day, we were unable to capitalize on our chances.”
LAFC have reached the proverbial wall in their season. But the wall be simply in their own minds, rather than external forces. A lack of concerted focus in both their attacking third and defensive third led to missed opportunities and regret. Dallas, meanwhile, took advantage of LAFC’s evident exhaustion and lack of clinical shots, and ended their 6-game winless streak, in spite of lacking their number one scorer, USMNT’s Jesus Ferreira.
LAFC dominated the first half of the match, in possession, in their attack and in the midfield. They nearly got on the board in the 25th minute on a free kick by Mateusz Bogusz. But Dallas broke free in the 56th minute when Bernard Kamungo slipped through a distracted LAFC defense on a set piece, beating John McCarthy to a save and tapped in the first goal for the home side.
The Black and Gold had several chances to get on the scoresheet, outshooting Dallas 15 to 7 — Denís Bouanga had 6 shots of his own. LAFC continued to struggle to find an equalizer, and in the 67th minute, a cross from substitute Carlos Vela reached Bouanga’s feet but his shot sailed wide. Yet again, in the 81st minute, another cross from Vela reached the box, but just ahead of Bouanga and Kwando Opoku, who failed to make the most of the golden opportunity. In the final minutes of the match, Sam Junqua doubled the Dallas lead with his first goal of the season.
Despite dictating the majority of the tempo of the game, LAFC have been facing a brutal truth since June. Lapses in defensive judgement, unpolished scoring efforts, and complaints about fatigue, scheduling and roster limitations have slipped into the regular dialogue from players and coaches. They have set an MLS record for most games played by an team by this stage in the season (29, versus Seattle Sounders’ 25 last year), but more matches are in store with the Leagues Cup approaching and a Campeones Cup Final to play in September against the Tigres. Rather than reiterating the reasons for the slow-down in their attack and the sluggishness of their defense, it’s time to find solutions.
“This is what we get paid to do, so we need to do it,” Ryan Hollingshead concluded at the end of his post-game interview. “Everything is compacted because of the extra tournament they added in this year… We need to push. We need to put ourselves in a good spot for the rest of the season.”
Next up for LAFC is a match fans have been waiting for since it was cancelled on Opening Day. In what is expected to be the new MLS attendance record setting game, LA Galaxy will host LAFC at the Rose Bowl on July 4th. Both teams have just two days rest. Expect fireworks both on and off the pitch. Hopefully not so much in the stands.