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Tempo, tempo, tempo: LA Galaxy’s likely path to beat Nashville SC

If they turn on the jets, they could advance in playoffs.

MLS: Nashville SC at LA Galaxy Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy have a few fundamental elements to their attack — patterns of play, feed it to the capable striker — but the element that seems to augur best for their chances in a given game is that old hobbyhorse of mine, their pace of play.

Put simply, when a game slows down for LA, they nearly always play worse. When they play quickly, they generally play better. In contrast, their opponent for Saturday’s MLS Playoff game, Nashville SC, are far more comfortable playing a slow game, as they usually seek to absorb in defense and make the most of their few attacking chances on the day.

But speed kills for LA. Chicharito is not necessarily known for his speed, but his ability to find a burst of pace is what gives him the ability to find a bit of space and most importantly, get the all-important shot off in a dangerous spot. Part of the reason Greg Vanney stuck with Kevin Cabral for so long, in spite of the Frenchman’s inability to finish in front of goal, was his speed stretched the field and helped LA get chances.

Samuel Grandsir and Douglas Costa can play a ball quickly from the flank, Dejan Joveljić has a Chicharito-esque ability to find space and time to shoot on a regular basis, and Julian Araujo and Raheem Edwards provide both space and verticality in pushing forward in attack from the fullback roles. And in the remade midfield, Riqui Puig, Mark Delgado and Gaston Brugman all play efficiently, meaning they are now comfortable keeping the ball moving forward when the time is right.

None of this is a secret, and Vanney has openly admitted the team performs when they attack at pace.

“Riqui is also a little bit of a two way guy, but he also can build some speed into the attacks,” Vanney told reporters after Sunday’s Decision Day win over the Houston Dynamo. “He likes sometimes to drop below everybody, he picks up the ball and he gets going. And he can put himself in good finishing positions. Javi [Javier Hernández] benefits from us when we can play with speed, and we can play with tempo. And we can get behind the back line and create some space for his movements. And, obviously, when you get a striker who is in form, that’s a wonderful thing. His confidence is going. He had some good looks tonight. Obviously finished the one with class. So, I think it’s, again, pieces fitting together, the tempo of the game being correct.”

The game being played at home should help LA’s prospects of dictating the tempo, but while they could possibly grind out a slow game and somehow come away with the win, this particular matchup is more indicative of a contrast in tempos than most playoff clashes we’ll see in the Western Conference. As a result, the Galaxy have to play smart regardless, but it really seems the biggest secret to success for them on Saturday will be to play at a fast pace and keep Nashville on their heels. If they manage that, then the G’z could very well extend their season at least one more game.

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