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LAFC's Strategic Triumphs with Steve Cherundolo

 LAFC's Strategic Triumphs with Steve Cherundolo

LAFC's Strategic Triumphs with Steve Cherundolo
LAFC's Strategic Triumphs with Steve Cherundolo(Image-Getty)

It's never advisable to give LAFC an early advantage. Under the strategic guidance of Steve Cherundolo, any vulnerability exposed in the pursuit of equalizing goals is swiftly and effectively exploited. This harsh lesson was experienced by Real Salt Lake, who witnessed a 0-0 halftime deadlock devolve into a 4-0 defeat during a Round-of-16 Leagues Cup encounter at BMO Stadium on Tuesday night.

With a playing history of over 300 appearances in the Bundesliga and a two-trophy triumph in his inaugural season as LAFC's coach, Cherundolo possesses invaluable insights into shutting out opponents. Post-match, he shared, "Playing against us when we take the lead is quite challenging. We train, we understand our principles and habits. Executed correctly, we capitalize on opponents' risks and openness."

He elaborated, "The easy and expected choice for the team would be to sit back and let the game conclude at 2-0, but this team doesn't ease up. They maintain their momentum, which is truly remarkable and enjoyable to watch."

Expanding on this perspective, it's evident that Cherundolo's LAFC adopts a similar mindset during periods of consistent success, often securing victories in rapid succession across extended stretches of exceptional play. Last year, they amassed an impressive record of 11 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw during the challenging summer phase of the MLS season, ultimately clinching the 2022 Supporters Shield.

Although their form was disrupted by midseason roster changes later that year, they surged forward and secured the 2022 MLS Cup through thrilling victories against rivals like LA Galaxy and the formidable Philadelphia Union.

This same momentum seems to be guiding their 2023 Leagues Cup journey. After beginning the current MLS season with an unbeaten streak of eight games and reaching the 2023 Concacaf Champions League final (where they lost to Liga MX's Club León 3-1 on aggregate), LAFC experienced a slump over the summer with a record of 3 wins, 5 losses, and 3 draws between their CCL loss and the Leagues Cup commencement.

However, following their rest due to their 2022 MLS Cup win and the subsequent Leagues Cup group-stage bye, LAFC regrouped during the Secondary Transfer Window and recommitted to their on-field efforts. Cherundolo noted, "We used the time before this tournament to train with the players and regain our old habits, behaviors, and playing principles. This has been beneficial and evident in our recent matches against Juárez and now."

Furthermore, LAFC's recent success can be attributed to their 4-0 win in the Round-of-16, combined with their 7-1 triumph over FC Juárez in the Round-of-32. This has led to an impressive +10 goal difference over the course of two Leagues Cup matches, both of which were knockout games. Dénis Bouanga, a Designated Player and a strong contender for the Landon Donovan 2023 MLS MVP award, has been instrumental in this offensive output, contributing 5 goals and 2 assists in these two Leagues Cup matches.

Cherundolo humorously compared Bouanga's contributions to Lionel Messi's, noting that while they might not match Messi's total goal involvements, their per-match rate is notable.

Bouanga's resurgence mirrors that of LAFC, as the Gabon international had only scored twice between CCL and Leagues Cup, following a remarkable tally of 10 goals in his initial 10 matches of the regular season. Additionally, emerging players like 19-year-old homegrown talent Nathan Ordaz and newly-acquired Bulgarian midfielder Filip Krastev have contributed to LAFC's attack, both finding the net against RSL.

Given that captain Carlos Vela was absent due to an apparent injury during the RSL match, these contributions from younger players could prove crucial. Cherundolo admitted uncertainty about Vela's status, saying, "We'll strive to provide updates on Carlos on a daily basis. Unfortunately, he wasn't available for tonight's match. We hope for better news in the coming days."

Looking ahead, LAFC faces a formidable challenge in a quarterfinal clash against Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey. Monterrey boasts the best record in the 2023 Clausura and remains undefeated in both their Apertura campaign and the Leagues Cup. The matchup is a true battle between the top sides of Liga MX and MLS, and the decisive game will be held at the renowned Rose Bowl stadium on August 11th.

Cherundolo acknowledged Monterrey's strengths, highlighting their balanced and versatile team with exceptional defenders and finishers. His dry sense of humor emerged when discussing the Rose Bowl stadium, mentioning its large capacity, parking issues, and hot weather. On a more serious note, he expressed anticipation for the match and the chance to showcase LAFC's capabilities in front of a lively crowd.

In summary, LAFC, under Steve Cherundolo's astute management, has demonstrated resilience and adaptability. Their successes and challenges reflect the team's commitment to their playing principles, continuous improvement, and readiness to face top-tier competition on the global stage.

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