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There was a point in the first half of the LAFC v Chicago Fire match on Saturday, May 4, that, if you did not catch the full game, perfectly summed up the night in a nutshell. It was when two LAFC players pounded away at the Chicago goal line, not more than two feet away, and were denied over and over again by a wall of Men in Red.

For the first 45, LAFC lived in Chicago’s defensive third—they set up camp there with a cornucopia of Carlos Vela - Christian Ramirez combos, buttressed by Latif Blessing and Mark-Anthony Kaye in the middle. Early on, Ramirez had a wide-open look at the edge of the 18 from a Vela cross, but fired it straight into the hands of Chicago keeper David Ousted. LAFC winger Diego Rossi followed shortly after with a far-range shot that veered just wide; Kaye sent a sublime through-ball to Steven Beitashour that was tragically offsides; and of course there was the aforementioned ping-pong battle between the home side’s Ramirez and Jordan Harvey and Chicago’s Nemanja Nikolic, who prevented the ball from crossing the line by mere millimeters.

Eerily similar to their last face-off, LAFC dominated possession 2 to 1, this time outshooting Chicago 5 to 1 and outperforming the visitors in essentially every category. Unfortunately for the home team, the stats once again did not correlate to the end result.

This was Chicago’s first game at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, with LAFC the clear favorites going in. LAFC had previously won every home game this season, and currently sit on top of the Western Conference, while Chicago were coming off two losses and are currently 8th in the Eastern Conference. The two have only played each other once before in 2018, when Chicago pulled off a shock 3-1 victory despite LAFC out-possessing and outshooting them.

Like an infuriating game of mini-golf putt-putt, LAFC tried and tried but simply could not send the ball to its rightful home. Sure, there were some unlucky deflections but due credit should be given to the Chicago side and its German international Bastian Schweinsteiger, who came prepared to defend against an LAFC attack. The visitors adjusted well to close down the home side, rotating as a defensive unit, double and triple-teaming Vela, and playing hard and cautiously. The strategy worked, and come second half, LAFC looked spent.

Chicago then began to create their own opportunities, with dynamic play from Argentinian attacking mid Nicolas Gaitan and an open-net miss from Nikolic that could have easily put the visitors ahead. LAFC responded by subbing in a freshly rehabbed Lee Nguyen for Ramirez, and ten minutes later Adama Diomande for Steven Beitashour. Still, the efforts were either too late or too little, as the match finished with a 0-0 draw. In one of the shortest press conferences in club history, LAFC coach Bob Bradley appeared arms crossed and apologetic. “Next time, I'll try to have better answers for you guys," he said.


LAFC: Saturday, May 11 at Columbus Crew SC

CHI: Wednesday, May 8 vs. New England Revolution

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