View Original Notice ? Brian Rodriguez knows LAFC’s must-win mantra all too well
When Brian Rodriguez returned to the U.S. in mid-July, the Los Angeles Football Club forward found his club playing its best soccer of the season.
Loaned to UD Almeria, a second division team in Spain trying to play its way into La Liga, “El Rayito” had engaged in an intense months-long promotion push that fell flat.
When Almeria failed to earn an automatic bid to one of Europe’s top leagues, Rodriguez and his teammates were tasked with winning a four-team playoff for the third and final spot, which they did not. The lack of results ensured that Rodriguez’s loan would not become permanent.
During the 21-year-old Uruguayan’s first match back with LAFC since the CONCACAF Champions League final in December, Rodriguez remained on the bench for a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on July 17 that improved the Black & Gold to 6-4-3 due to its first three-match winning streak this year.
Since that short winning spell over the summer, LAFC is 4-8-4 (2-6-2 when Rodriguez played), prompting what amounts to a second intense playoff push in 2021 for the young MLS designated player.
“You can compare them, but I’m confident in our case that we will take a playoff spot,” Rodriguez said prior to LAFC’s match in Dallas on Wednesday, which is among four crucial games the club will play from Oct. 16-26. “We’ve been here with the same group of guys since my arrival. I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and our players.”
Contributions from Rodriguez, like his late pass to Cristian Arango that sealed a 3-1 victory over San Jose on Saturday, would provide a boost to LAFC’s late-season push.
“This is not only for us as players, but it’s for our people,” said Rodriguez, who tallied two goals to go with that assist since rejoining LAFC. “We can win a game and be up there in the fight. We can lose a game and be on our way out.”
Despite the stellar play of 18-year-old striker Ricardo Pepi, FC Dallas is nine points behind ninth-place LAFC and a loss away from being eliminated from postseason contention.
Wednesday’s match comes after an 18-day break for Dallas (6-13-10, 28 points). The team’s director of soccer operations, Marco Ferruzzi, will serve as acting head coach after taking over for Luchi Gonzalez on Sept. 19.
“Those are all things that ensure we’re on guard and expect a tough game,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said.
“There’s no looking backwards,” he continued. “It’s keeping everybody alive. You can never be afraid of these kinds of challenges. The most important thing is the mentality of the group. Playing the game with a real commitment to our ideas. Playing every game with a real commitment for each guy to give to the team in every way that he can, whether they’re a starter or reserve.”
Bradley will call his team to win without captain Carlos Vela for a 10th consecutive contest or key midfielder Eduard Atuesta. The pair of stars – two of the five remaining players from the 2018 expansion season roster – are not expected to travel to Texas, but could join LAFC (10-12-7, 37 points) for a critical contest over the weekend in Minnesota.
“When we get to Minnesota, there will be a slightly different message, just in terms a six-point type game, but we can’t look past Dallas,” Bradley said. “We need points in all games and we still have a lot of respect for their football.”
LAFC at FC DALLAS
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
TV: Bally Sports SoCal; Estrella TV (Spanish)
Radio: 1110 AM; ESPN App; 980 AM (Spanish)