When LAFC open their MLS is Back Tournament campaign on Monday night against the Houston Dynamo (8 pm ET | FS1, TUDN, TSN), they will be without their most influential attacker in Carlos Vela. They'll be facing first-year Dynamo coach Tab Ramos for the first time. And they'll be playing in oppressive Central Florida summer conditions that could cramp their high-pressing style.
Still, success is all about staying true to the principals that made LAFC the record-setting Supporters' Shield champions last year, says midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.
"I think obviously there’s going to be an adaptation period once you get back on the field," Kaye said during a virtual press conference. "I think the teams who can get back to their ideas as quick as possible are the ones who are going to be successful in this tournament. So yeah, there might be a little bit of a change in the tempo of the game considering the weather here. It’s very humid, you feel like you’ve played 20 minutes after just doing a warm-up. So I think the game will be a lot slower than usual, but you can still play good football at a slower tempo."
LAFC will still try to make the game frenetic at times to create their trademark transition opportunities. They'll just be choosier about when.
"We still want to find moments to push the tempo and press, but you have to do it in an intelligent way," said manager Bob Bradley. "It’s really not possible in this weather to just press like crazy for 90 minutes. You need smart players, you work in your preparation so that you have the ability to recognize the right moments where everybody together moves and presses. Other moments where you wait and look for the next moment to win the ball. So the ability to deal with the different moments in the game and find time when you have the ball where maybe you control the game and make passes, these are all factors in terms of how you deal with the conditions."
Oddsmakers may have Houston as the odd team out in a group that features three qualifiers for the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
However, the Dynamo's assortment of attackers going forward can make them an especially dangerous side in a short tournament where goals, so far, have been at a premium. Their quality in the final third — with a roster that features three of the top 25 in MLS expected goals leaders in the 2019 season, according to American Soccer Analysis — should not be taken lightly, Bradley said.
"We certainly know that a guy like [Tomas] Martinez in the midfield is a really important player, and then up top, they’re dangerous," Bradley said. "Alberth Elis, Darwin Quintero and [Mauro] Manotas. These are really good players."