Updated: Jul 28
Brad Guzan is a mother-loving wall. His ridiculous performance was the only thing that kept Atlanta from being run off the field in Southern California. In a game that saw Atlanta have 4 shots with 0 on target while Los Angeles kept pounding on the door with 22 shots, 8 on target, and a penalty that was taken twice, Atlanta is lucky to escape unscathed. The whole team looked lethargic and Ibarra was the only outfield player that looked like he cared. The substitutions helped but also beg questions of who should get to start.
Guzan Deserves an Apology
No one is as good or bad as their last game and Brad Guzan is a prime example of that truth. After a poor game against New England, people were calling for his replacement, but against Los Angeles, Guzan had a performance that will haunt the LAFC attackers. He was by far the man of the match and faced an xG of 2.3. He managed to save the ball with every part of his body and was so far in Vela's head during the penalty that he didn't concede either of them. When Vela was doing his run up to the penalty spot you could tell he was unsure of himself and indecisiveness is how you miss a penalty. I've run out of superlatives to describe Brad Guzan's performance so I will just say it again, he is a mother-loving wall.
Revisiting the Starting 11
The team looked atrocious. We had 7 touches in the attacking penalty box. 7. We also had 0 carries into the penalty box. These poor displays by some starters, especially when compared to their subs has to raise some questions about who makes the starting XI. Derrick Etienne Jr., for example, needs to be replaced by someone. Now that Caleb Wiley is back with the squad following the US U-20s being knocked out of the World Cup, Wiley should easily replace Etienne Jr. But if in the future Wiley is out Tyler Wolff has proven himself as a good player. He is a fun, fast player who still has room to improve but clearly has talent and a drive that Etienne just doesn't seem to have. Etienne's stats are awful. He isn't shooting, he isn't creating chances, and he isn't making good passes. His only saving grace is that he brings the ball into the penalty box, but then he doesn't know what to do with it. Ajani Fortune also played well when coming off the bench and deserves some more playing time, even though he missed a sitter in the 83rd minute.
If Brad Guzan hadn't stood on his head for 100+ minutes the team could have easily lost 3 or 4-0. There were some major defensive issues. You should never allow the team to just pound on the door for the entire second half. Los Angeles had 33 progressive carries, 13 carries into the penalty box, and 1058 yards of progressive carries. That means that they dribbled the ball toward the goal over half of a mile. That is almost double Atlanta's progressive carry distance. Clearly, there are some defensive issues that need to be addressed. Some of these are about bringing the ball out of the back. For instance, Brooks Lennon was slow on the ball in the back and was lucky to never be punished. The main issue I saw, though, was that Miles Robinson looks lost. We play a defensive line of 4 against an attacking 3 which is normal and results in an extra defender. Normally this can be used to double-mark someone or to step up to a 10. Against LAFC, however, Miles Robinson too often was just in space and Los Angeles was able to play the ball into someone in the attack. Sometimes the player wasn't even marked by anyone. That can't happen and is unfortunate considering that when he is marking someone he is really good. For instance, in the first half, Bouanga was sprinting down the flank and was through on goal if not for a great Miles Robinson defensive play to get in the way and draw the foul. He is a really good and fast defender but is being played into weird spaces where he doesn't always know what to do and it is wasting a really strong player.