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MLS Western Conference: LAFC explode, Vanni Sartini’s tactical misstep & more on each team

We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Western Conference.

16 min read

Welcome back our two-part weekly MLS column here at Backheeled, where we break down all 29 teams in the league.

I’ve got the West. Ben Wright’s got the East. Oh, and the West’s gonna have Bob Bradley back next year? Let’s chat about the latest for each Western Conference squad, shall we?

To read up on the East, check out Ben’s rundown.

MLS Eastern Conference: Cincy’s injury woes, crucial transfer action & more on each team
We’re dissecting every MLS team in the Eastern Conference.

Austin FC

Result: 1-0 win at Minnesota United

They don’t all have to be pretty, folks.

Austin FC’s narrow win in Minnesota on Saturday certainly wasn’t. But missing their best attacking midfielder in Sebastian Driussi to illness and their best tempo-setter at the base of midfield in Daniel Pereira to the Copa America, it was never going to be.

Josh Wolff used a 4-4-2 shape with Diego Rubio playing next to Gyasi Zardes in the forward line. Without a real connector through the middle, Austin struggled to create quality chances on the road, ending the match with just 0.6 xG and only four shots inside the box. Still, one of those shots was the eventual game-winner from Rubio, who should write Clint Irwin a thank-you note after this one:

It’s a delightful ball into the box from Jon Gallagher, who’s generally having a down 2024 after being one of the top outside backs in MLS in 2023. It’s a composed finish from Rubio, too, but the whole sequence isn’t the sort you can count on to repeat itself. 

Really, though, a goal is a goal and a win is a win. Typically, three points all count the same — but in a weak West? It feels like every set of three points against a conference foe counts for even more. Austin are above the playoff line and are scheduled to get stronger with Osman Bukari arriving in the summer.

They should aim higher than their current spot in eighth, but you could do far worse in a rebuilding year.

Colorado Rapids

Result: 4-1 win vs. CF Montreal

Before racist comments appeared on Moise Bombito’s Instagram, I was going to open this section by marveling at the 24-year-old’s career trajectory. It’s wrong and sickening that Bombito suffered racial abuse after Canada’s loss to Argentina in the Copa America. I’m not going to give those commenters any shine, so allow me to resume my previously scheduled shoutout for the center back.

Bombito went from being a SuperDraft pick last year to locking down a starting job with the Colorado Rapids to emerging as a starter at the international level during the dawn of Canada’s Jesse Marsch era. Toss European interest into the equation? His stock is through the roof.

The Rapids are missing Bombito while he’s away, but they didn’t miss him too much in their easy, breezy 4-1 home win over CF Montreal. They ran right over their visitors from the north, dominating in open play and on attacking set pieces — only Philly have scored more goals from dead balls than Colorado (10) and only DC have more xG on deal balls. But they also have Christian Benteke, so, you know, it’s not really a fair comparison.

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