LAFC Resumes Winning Ways

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

While the sporting nation is intently focused on World Cup 2018 in Russia, the Los Angeles Football Club has already resumed its winning ways. Following a short hiatus in the schedule by Major League Soccer to allow roster adjustments for players representing their national teams, LAFC swift-boated Columbus Crew SC, 2-0, scoring both goals in the opening minutes.

LAFC defender and captain Laurent Ciman powered a low, swerving, 30-yard free-kick inside the right corner of the goal beyond diving Columbus Crew goalkeeper, Jon Kempin, in the fourth minute of Tuesday's game. It was the General's third free-kick goal of the season. First-year wonder LAFC is just one of five MLS clubs that's averaging at least 2.0+ goals per game so far this season.

Four minutes later, wide-open forward Adama Diomande found the left back of the net on an uncontested 11-yard boot. Midfielders Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber assisted on the play that began with a subtle step and pass from forward Latif Blessing. The Crew never recovered as goalkeeper Tyler Miller and the LAFC defense recorded its third shutout at home and the fifth of the season.

The Banc of California Stadium once again sold out for LAFC. All six MLS games played in the new, 22,000-seat facility have been before capacity crowds. The 3252, LAFC's independent supporters, started chanting hours before the match began and lasted past the final whistle. Their impact on the team's energy and the thousands in attendance is undeniable.

LAFC introduced recent acquisition, midfielder Andre Horta of Portugal, to the media before the match. The 21-year old Horta was signed as the club's third designated player. He recently played for SL Benfica in Portugal's First Division.

"André is a technically gifted player with enormous versatility," said LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley in March when LAFC announced the signing. "He is young and dynamic and with his experience in Portugal we believe he will continue to develop into a top-class player."

Horta on why he chose LAFC: "I think MLS is a league that has improved its quality with good players that come to it from Europe. Coach Bradley told me the ideas that he has for the club and the way we will play... and that I'm important here."

He also reviewed the club's facilities: "The training facilities don't compare with what we have in Portugal. I think it's the greatest stadium facility that I have seen. The stadium is absolutely amazing."

"My goals are to do my best, help the club," Horta said. "I'm used to winning in Portugal. I have won titles. Out here is no different. I want to win the Cup, the Championship. I want to win everything."

Horta then walked across the pitch directly towards The 3252 supporting section in the north end of the stadium prior to the match. The fans engulfed him immediately with hugs, selfies and autographs as his charm easily won them over.

The MLS fans also voted in two LAFC players, Ciman and forward Carlos Vela, to the 2018 All-Star Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Aug. 1. It will be Ciman's third MLS All-Star Game appearance. The Belgium National Team member also was selected in 2015 and 2016.

Vela leads LAFC with seven goals and five assists this season and has helped Mexico's National Team advance to the second round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Vela became the first LAFC player to ever score a goal in the World Cup when he converted a penalty kick in Mexico's 2-1 win over South Korea last Saturday. That inspiration could be felt in LAFC's effort hours later on the other side of the globe.

LAFC is currently in third place in the Western Conference with 27 points. Their 8-3-4 record is behind Sporting Kansas City (9-2-5) with 32 points and FC Dallas (8-2-5) with 29 points.

Tuesday's loss moved Columbus Crew (7-5-6) down to fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 27 points. Atlanta United FC (34 points), New York City FC (31) and New York Red Bulls (29) lead their conference.

Philadelphia Union visits Banc of California Stadium at 5:30 p.m., this Saturday, June 30. Following a road game at Houston Dynamo on July 3, LAFC will host Orlando City SC for a 1:30 p.m. afternoon match on Saturday, July 7.

The win over Columbus Crew also marks the first time LAFC has ever won consecutive home games. They have yet to lose at home with three wins and three draws approaching the halfway point in the 34-match MLS season. It's safe to say that LAFC's impressive start is turning heads at home and abroad.


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