After a dominating 3-0 win over Austin FC last weekend, LAFC will play its first MLS Cup game and what better way to do it than to host the final. The Black and Gold will host the Philadelphia Union in an all or nothing game between the two best teams in MLS. This will be the first time since 2003 the first place in each conference face off in the final. Since we are only hours away from the biggest game in the club’s history, let’s take a look at some of the key things for tomorrow’s match.
Handling the pressure
Since the beginning of the 2022 season, Steve Cherundolo and his team have had pressure on their backs. From the start, this team was a clear favorite to win MLS Cup. Throughout the season, LAFC added names to the squad that just made it eve stronger and the pressure built as well. Players like Gareth Bale, Giorgio Chiellini, Denis Bouanga, and Cristian Tello, they have given this club a “galacticos” type of look. Ever since, it has been MLS Cup or bust for this team, but this team has handled it like champions. If there is one thing Cherundolo has managed really well is pressure. This team looks different from other past years. Finally they play, act and mentally look like champions. This is the biggest game for many of these players, it is important they handle the pressure well. All of the league’s eyes will be set on this team. Supporter’s Shield champions, one of the best rosters in history, home field advantage. Everything is set for this team to handle business and win.
Carlos Vela already mentioned it to ESPN when asked what the key was to beat the Union, “be ourselves, set the tone and play the way we know how to play.” Words that could not be more perfect. Like mentioned in the article before previewing the match against Austin, LAFC have to go out there and be the ones setting the tone for the game. They cannot go out there trying to change things up and just wonder around like against the LA Galaxy. The game last Sunday was one of the most dominant performances of the season. Most of the game was played in Austin’s half and the game could’ve ended 5-0 easily if it wasn’t for a great performance from their goalkeeper. The team’s counterpleas and ability to recover the ball quickly in their half is the biggest key to tomorrow’s match. Chiellini and Murillo have to be very careful because the Union is a team that counters really well. Being that high up the field is necessary but very risky. It’ll require a 10/10 performance from them.
Leaders in the locker room
If there is something that this team has compared to other years is leadership. This team is full of experienced leaders who have played tons of big games like this one. Vela, Chiellini, Tello and even Bale have to motivate and help the younger players. Many of the players in that locker room have not won a title like this, some haven’t even played a final before. Things could get tough during the game, but that is when these players have to step up wether they are on the field or not. Finals are won due to small details. Details such as who handles the pressure better and who has the strongest mentality. The other players can have a bad game, but these heavyweights cannot.
3252 and the fans
For many fans, specially the 3252 members, this is the culmination of 5+ years of work and support. They’ve been dreaming about this day since the moment the club was announced. The fans have always been at a level higher than the team has ever been. That’s why they are the best fans in the league. Tomorrow the players have to step up and put the performance of their lives. Because the fans will indeed put the performance of their lives. They will support from the moment the players warm up to the moment the last person leaves the Banc. Because tomorrow’s game might never come again.