CITY vs LAFC: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


By Cole Sutton

CITY returned home Wednesday to battle LAFC for their second home match in only four days, resulting in a frustrating 2-0 loss. The defeat was the club's first at CITYPARK this season and the first MLS regular season home loss since 10/21/23 against Seattle. One of the few positive takeaways from Wednesday is with another fixture scheduled for Saturday, there won't be much time to dwell on the lackluster performance against the 2022 MLS Cup winners.

While refereeing and botched VAR calls will certainly be a topic of discussion, we can't only place blame on the officiating for why CITY dropped points. Going down to 10 men in the 75th minute certainly doesn't help, but a lack of clinical finishing in the final third was the true Achilles heel for the Boys in Red against Hugo Lloris, Denis Bouanga, and company.

We recap the Good, the Bad & the Ugly from CITY vs LAFC:


Tomáš Ostrák

Ostrák was the highest-rated CITY player according to FotMob's ratings, finishing the match at a 6.8 in 64 minutes of action. With Eduard Löwen's absence and the injury to Njabulo Blom, the 24-year-old midfielder has shifted to a deeper central midfield role making the most of his opportunity with extended minutes even out of position.

CITY's #7 finished his shift on Wednesday night with 89% accurate passing (33-for-37), 3-for-3 on accurate long balls, and seven passes into LAFC's final third according to FotMob. In terms of the eye test, the Czech Republic native seemed to have quite an impact in the St. Louis midfield covering lots of ground and facilitating the ball out wide to Célio & Alm on the flanks.

Ostrák has started in 8 of CITY's last 10 games dating back to the Austin FC clash on 3/9 where Eduard Löwen picked up his hamstring injury, and it will certainly be interesting to see how Manager Bradley Carnell shifts his midfield around with two key pieces finding their way back to full fitness.

Blom's Return

Speaking of finding their way back to full fitness, South African international Njabulo Blom made his first appearance for CITY Wednesday night. The 24-year-old nicknamed "Stopper" had been out since 4/6 when he picked up a hamstring injury against FC Dallas. Blom is a name that you may not see on the back of many jerseys around CITYPARK, but his impact both in and out of possession cannot be overstated.

The Former Kaiser Chief midfielder has a Célio-like calmness when the ball is at his feet in the central midfield, but he shines when closing down space and dispossessing opponents defensively. In his 26 minutes off the bench, Blom tied Ostrák's 6.8 rating posting 82% (18-for-22) accurate passing, 4-for-4 on long balls, and eight passes into the final third. Defensively, you could see the impact "Jabs" had with the midfielder winning five duels and only losing one. Having a defensive presence in our midfield is a necessity and with Blom making his way back to full health, I hope to see him regain his starting spot soon.

Carnell spoke to media after the match about Blom's return:

"Good, creating rhythm, creating the real game repetitions, things are happening quicker. It's not just training and it's not just we are trying to get these guys progressed, competitive, to get a little bit of an edge back," said Carnell. "So yeah, I thought he did a good job when he came in."

The main question is who Blom will replace in the starting lineup as the South African continues to see more minutes. Newcomer Chris Durkin has been an incredible addition to this CITY squad starting all but one game, the season opener against Real Salt Lake back in February, across all competitions. Especially with all signs pointing to Löwen returning in limited minutes on Saturday against FC Cincinnati, there will be some lineup changes coming after seeing mainly the same starters the last four-to-five matches. While challenging, this is an incredible problem to have as one of the knocks on CITY since joining the MLS in 2023 is their lack of depth.

Will we see Ostrák go to the bench for Löwen/Blom? Or would Carnell dare to move Vassilev out wide and send Rasmus Alm out of the starting lineup? At full fitness, I think a central midfield of Durkin & Blom as holding/defensive mids with Edu a bit higher up the pitch would be ideal. Leaving one of Ostrák, Alm, or Vassilev out of the lineup is a tough call, to say the least. I'm glad I'm not the one making that decision!


CITY's Finishing

With only 17 goals in 12 matches, CITY find themselves near the middle of the pack in total goals scored, a whopping 18 goals behind MLS leaders Inter Miami. St. Louis' 19.94 xG's ranks 14th out of 29 clubs and the Boys in Red actually rank second in total scoring opportunities with 202. Although the 66 on-target scoring attempts rank seventh across the league. So why aren't those chances finding the back of the net?

While I'm not doing a deep dive into the analytics/data, it just feels like CITY has struggled not only to create serious attacking threats but to convert those chances as well. João Klauss currently leads the club with five goals, Célio behind him with three, and Sam Adeniran has tallied two goals despite not being included in the squad for multiple matches earlier this year. Those three players are the only members of the squad with multiple goals through 12 matches.

As shown in the LAFC match, CITY found themselves with plenty of scoring opportunities but just failed to put them away. According to FotMob, St. Louis totaled 14 SOG with seven chances on target against Hugo Lloris on Wednesday night along with the missed penalty from Klauss in the 15th minute.

If Klauss had slotted home the PK the night could have gone much differently but CITY had many more opportunities to take control of the match later on. Including an Anthony Markanich goal right before the halftime break that was called back for a handball that I'm still searching to find. A quick VAR review killed all of CITY's momentum going into the dressing room and you couldn't help but feel like it just wasn't their night.



Did anyone check if the replacement refs were still calling games? It certainly felt like it last night as Joe Dickerson put on one of the worst displays of officiating I've seen since CITY joined the league last season. Chants of "Ref you suck!" echoed throughout the entirety of CITYPARK in the second half with Dickerson handing out yellow cards like candy.

A total of seven yellow cards were given to St. Louis throughout the match (two for Markanich which led to his ejection in the 75th minute) eventually bringing the Boys in Red down to 10 men to finish out the contest. A questionable hand-ball call on Markanich's first-half goal was just the tip of the bad call iceberg sadly, with both Carnell and players answering questions from media regarding the poor officiating.

Carnell on Markanich's second yellow card:

"I'm not sure. I thought Anthony gets a shot at the back, falls over and gives it the other way, and I'm not sure for what the yellow card comes for, I'm not sure about that but for us it was a clear foul the other way in my opinion."

Club captain Roman Bürki also touched on the frustration that set in for CITY in the second half.

"Yeah, definitely very frustrated. First of all because we played a really good first half once again. We waited to kill the game. We have two chances or maybe a little bit more, but we need to score goals. Take the whole flow of LA out the rings, you know, like that's how the game, these games go."

Boo's from the CITY faithful reigned down on Dickerson and the rest of his crew as the final whistle sounded, a symbol of the same frustration the players expressed in the postgame presser.

Looking Ahead

CITY's packed schedule continues with a road trip to Cincinnati next up on the agenda. Following Saturday's clash, the Boys in Red will have a week to recover before returning to CITYPARK to take on the Seattle Sounders on 5/25.