LAFC – Match Report Vs. Sporting Kansas City (17/04/2022)

LAFC won 3-1, dominantly, against Sporting Kansas City to retain the top spot in MLS’ Western conference. LAFC went to a 4-3-3, a change-up from the two striker formations they have used previously this season. 

Ratings: 

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, re-watch
  • D – Below average in this match

Kwado Opoku

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Ghanaian
  • Age: 20
  • Date of Birth: 06/13/2001
  • Current Club: LAFC
  • Career: Attram De Visser Soccer Academy, LAFC
  • Position: Right Winger
  • Secondary Position: Left Winger
  • Preferred Foot: Right

After being plucked from relative obscurity in the Ghanaian domestic leagues, Opoku has quickly established himself as a dangerous attacking player in MLS. In this particular match things did not work out particularly well for him but he showed a lot of skills that make him an exciting prospect going forward.

One thing that stood out was Opoku’s off-the-ball movement. He frequently made good runs into channels to receive the ball and get into dangerous positions. He had the wherewithal to find the space and the speed to get to the ball ahead of opposing players. Opoku usually had the right idea of what to do with the ball but his efforts were stifled in this match. He had two occasions where he cut the ball back from the byline for what would have been very high danger scoring chances if his passes had not been intercepted. On another occasion, he almost put Ryan Hollingshead in a fantastic position with an outside of the foot pass but it was just barely cut out by an SKC defender. Opoku also put in a lot of good work defensively, putting pressure on SKC defenders and winning the ball back either himself or setting the groundwork for his teammates to do so.

Opoku was withdrawn after 65 minutes and he has played relatively few minutes throughout his career so far. So his stamina and endurance will be something to look out for in the future. One thing that holds Opoku back is his dribbling. He does not have the sharpest touch and his dribbling is not the most creative. He is also quite small which makes it quite easy for defenders to just put their shoulder into him if he tries to go around the. If he could elevate his dribbling ability then he would be extremely hard to stop

Rating – A2

Opoku is still very new to being a professional so I don’t want to come in too hot on his long-term potential just yet. But to play as well as he has in MLS, at such a young age, so quickly, and having come from Ghanian football (not even the first division as far as I can tell) suggests that he could hit a very high level. Opoku’s touch and dribbling leave something to be desired but he’s a smart player and at 20 he still has a lot of time to grow. Making it to a top 5 league is well within the realm of possibility if he continues to develop. 

Mamadou ”Mbacke” Fall

  • Nationality: Senegalese 
  • Age: 19
  • Date of Birth: 21/11/2002
  • Current Club: LAFC
  • Career: Monteverde Academy, LAFC
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Preferred Foot: Right

Another player LAFC seemingly pulled out of thin air, Fall has made a name for himself in MLS as a goal-scoring centre-back. He is an absolute menace in the air, having already scored 5 goals in 22 MLS appearances. Based on this you might picture an enormous man who brute forces the ball into the net and has feet of stone. But, as he showed in this game, that does not describe Fall, at least not totally. At 6’2 he is not notably big for a centre-back and he looks very comfortable with the ball at his feet. The secret to Fall’s aerial prowess is his ability to leap. He assisted LAFC’s first goal in this match and the broadcast showed an angle that demonstrated just how much air Fall can get. 

His ability to leap, naturally also helps him defensively. In this match, he was frequently well positioned to clear away crosses and win aerial battles. He also did a good job when he was isolated against Khiry Shelton to hold up the SKC forward and prevent him from being 1v1 with the goalkeeper. However, his 1v1 defending was a little inconsistent. He tended to lunge in a bit when defending against dribbling opponents. This led to him committing a couple of fouls. There were also a couple of times when he seemed to react a bit slow to the ball changing direction or where he cleared away across a little bit awkwardly. So dealing with situations where the ball is moving quickly might be a weakness to watch out for. Fall looked very comfortable with the ball and was able to play line splitting passes to his teammates. It should be noted, of course, that LAFC is a very dominant team so he isn’t under pressure all that often. 

Rating – A2

Fall is extremely impressive for 19. He has a few things to clean up but I believe the sky’s the limit for him. Even with the small weaknesses he has, he is still working four or five goals per season on set pieces and that is incredibly valuable. When you factor in his age and his strengths outside of his goalscoring you have a very exciting player. If big teams aren’t already sniffing around, they should be. 

Diego Palacios

  • Nationality: Ecuadorian
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 12/06/1999
  • Current Club: LAFC
  • Career: SD Aucas, Willem II, SD Aucas (Loan), LAFC
  • Position: Left Back
  • Preferred Foot: Left

Deigo Palacios was unfortunate to score an own goal in this match but he showed a lot of positive traits as well. LAFC controlled most of the match so Palacios had ample chances to show his offensive abilities. Pushing forward from left-back he was directly involved in two of LAFC’s goals. He put in the cross for Fall on the first one and on the second he played a lovely progressive pass that led to a wonder goal (in fairness that the second one probably won’t be repeatable).

Palacios’ crossing mostly came from dangerous areas and he also showed some good decision-making regarding when it was time to play it short and when it was time to get it in the mixer. He positioned himself well to stretch the SKC defence, occupying advanced wide positions and finding space to receive progressive passes. He had a couple of moments where he played strange passes, seemingly to nobody in particular. Fbref shows his passing numbers being pretty good so perhaps it was just a one-off but it certainly stood out as one of his weaknesses in this match.

Defensively he was a bit of a mixed bag. He was very quick when he needed to recover after being caught forward. He also defended quite aggressively and closed down opposing players quickly. But his 1v1 defending was a little bit suspect. In particular, Johnny Russell had him on skates on the play that lead to his own goal. He also is quite small and, although he held his own for the most part, there were a few moments where he got outmuscled. 

Rating – B1

Palacios is right on the border between a B1 and an A2. He certainly has a lot of good skills and is one of the best fullbacks in MLS. But I would be concerned about his 1v1 defending getting exposed at a higher level, especially if he was not going to a top team. He’s about to turn 23 so there is still some room to grow but we are getting to the point where what you see is what you get. 

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