LAFC continues to produce strong defensive effort – Orange County Register

PASADENA — Defensive statistics aren’t the first things that come to mind when people discuss the offensively prolific Los Angeles Football Club.

Considering how many goals LAFC has scored since joining Major League Soccer in 2018, it would be unlikely to hear pundits and fans talk up “average shooting distance” from the Black & Gold opposition.

But they should.

With another strong performance on Thursday at the Rose Bowl, LAFC ran their club-record unbeaten streak in league play to 10.

Over that stretch, LAFC has stymied teams and refused to allow more than the odd chance inside the box, which is why they lead MLS with the farthest average shooting distance from opponents at 19.5 yards.

This trend continued during the 2-1 victory against the Galaxy, which dominated possession but failed to make much of their time on the ball outside of a scrambling finish in the 56th minute by Gabriel Pec directly in front of LAFC goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

“It’s a team that has been really good of late attacking quite aggressively through the middle,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said of his side’s ‘El Trafico’ rival. “Keeping their wingers sometimes narrow, Pec coming on the right had too much room and that gave them a little more effectiveness, I’d say, getting in the box.

“But we take pride in not letting teams in behind our back line and not really letting teams inside our box. That’s something we work on, we talk on, and if you’re not going to get in the box you’re not going to score. If you take a deep dive into statistics defensively we’ve been fantastic the last two months.”

LAFC effectively shut down the Galaxy for the first 45 minutes. When they went to the break ahead 2-0, the five-time MLS Cup champions had engineered a measly 0.11 xG with just a pair of shots from distance that didn’t bother Lloris.

“We had a good tactical plan today in terms of when we do come sit back a little bit we still put pressure on the ball so they don’t try to make entries into our final third, our 18,” LAFC center back Aaron Long said.

The Galaxy’s attempts to get in the game were repeatedly shut down by LAFC’s back line as well as the collective effort of the group.

“For me, seeing the collective now succeed and seeing them coach themselves and come up with solutions themselves, is particularly why I do this job,” Cherundolo said.

In the end, Galaxy managed to put just four of their 10 shots on target.

Outside of a short burst around the hour mark, they were unable to penetrate LAFC’s defensive posture.

“The first half there was a lot of possession going nowhere,” Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney said. “A lot of guys looking for the ball at their feet. No timing, no rhythm, no building speed, we didn’t get numbers up against them. Sometimes you have to build an attack off of the width, can’t always build through the middle and there was time in the first half, we didn’t get any of it right. Against a very good counter attacking team, it becomes a death by a thousand passes and they utilized those losses of possession to break out against us and put us a bit on our heels at times.”

The victors put their stamp on their second win over the Galaxy this season by limiting the dangerous trio of Riqui Puig, who put three of his six attempts on frame, Pec, whose only shot on goal got the Galaxy on the board, and a mostly quiet Joseph Paintsil.

The result “was a good day for our defense,” said fullback Sergi Palencia, whom Cherundolo described as brilliant while fireworks reverberated around the stadium once the match was over. “We were together. That this is one of our keys. We were successful today. We didn’t suffer too much, even if they are very good players.”

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