Lee Nguyen debuts for LAFC, but quick linking doesn't create a winner

LOS ANGELES—In the 84th minute of Saturday’s 1-1 draw between FC Dallas and LAFC, the expansion club’s new acquisition did what they brought him into do.

Lee Nguyen – who only arrived Wednesday in a blockbuster trade – threaded the ball to Diego Rossi, who slid the ball across to Carlos Vela just in front of the Dallas penalty spot:

The chance didn't result in a goal, as Vela hesitated a sliver too long and his shot was deflected away by the stingy Dallas defense. But it provided a glimpse of what the club expects from the attacking corps once they spend more time playing together.

“[Lee] has got an eye for finding good pockets and seeing passes,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.

The moment was indicative of a day where LAFC consistently seemed dangerous before and after scoring in the 9th minute through right back Steven Beitashour, but failed to finish impressive strings of offensive play following the opening goal.

With Marco Ureña off the team sheet after undergoing facial surgery on Friday, Latif Blessing and Vela took turns playing up front. The home side – in their second game at freshly minted Banc of California — created 15 shots on the day; nine were off target.

“We were able to create good chances,” Beitashour said. “It comes down to being more clinical in the final third because that game should have been 3- or 4-nothing by time they got their chance.”

To bring the visitors level, Maximiliano Urruti spun away from Sunday’s hero, LAFC captain Laurent Ciman, and slotted the ball away in the 55th minute from the top of the arc against the run of play.

The absence of Ureña, to Bradley, was less of a hurdle for his expansion side than the midday kickoff on an LA day in the upper 80s, that forced referees to break once in each half for water breaks.

“Today the new challenge is in an afternoon game on a hot day,” Bradley said. “I hope the schedule makers understand that. [Today] was a good game, but if you play that game tonight, it would have been a better game.”

The introduction of Nguyen came in the 73th minute and he immediately began to link well with the LAFC’s wealth of attacking talent.

“At that point in the game things are slowing down and it’s hot,” Bradley said. “Mark[-Anthony Kaye] and Benny [Feilhaber] played behind [Nguyen] a little more in the way we had that would give Lee a little space to find openings.”

Before he came on, Nguyen said Bradley told him to “Bring some energy into the game and do your thing.”

Ten minutes later, when the string puller found Rossi in space on the left side, before the Uruguayan slid it into Vela, LAFC almost went ahead 2-1 — a result that would have seemed fair in the same way Sunday’s 1-0 scoreline against Seattle may have flattered the home team.

In the postgame press conference, Nguyen mentioned nailing down timing and learning his teammates' tendencies are the main elements he hopes to quickly sharpen.

“When I’m on the ball, trying to know where [a teammate] wants it, the time when he wants to make the run. Does he want it early? Does he want it on his back foot? Those little things, those details that can make a chance a big chance.”

It’s the attention to detail that the whole of LAFC’s attacking force must continue to absorb as they build toward being a complete team who can finish off games they deserve to win.

“I thought we still created a lot of good opportunities today,” said Bradley. “I feel like we had the game and we didn’t finish it, so therefore we left two points on the table.”