LA Football Club Opens Season with Win
March 7, 2019
How do you spell Thriller in Los Angeles? LAFC! One year after setting an MLS record for most points by a franchise in its inaugural season with 57, the Los Angeles Football Club produced their most exciting victory to date in their 2019 home opener. This season promises to be even better with 18 players returning including all but two starters from last season.
The Black and Gold rallied from a one-goal deficit when substitute forward Adama Diomande blasted his only shot into the back of the net with seconds remaining in stoppage time for a 2-1 well-earned win over Sporting Kansas City. The sold out crowd of 22,099 led by "The 3252" fan supporting section exploded in celebration at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday night.
"I was ready today to come off the bench and I was hungry for that goal and hungry to help my team," said Dio. "Especially at the end of the game too, scoring a fantastic goal, I'm just happy for the fans and for the first game of the season.
Sporting KC took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute on a point blank goal from the penalty mark by Krisztian Nemeth after the LAFC defense failed to clear the ball. 2nd year LAFC forward Diego Rossi, the team's second leading scorer last season, tied the score at 1-1 two minutes into the second half on a beautiful low bender just inside the right goal post.
"They are a really good team but wanted to start the season by showing the league that we're going to be a top contender to the league," said forward Carlos Vela, leader and last season's leading scorer for LAFC.
"We have to win games as tonight's and continue to be a strong team. This is just the start. We have a lot of things to improve on but we're really happy to be back and play in front of our fans. Winning games like that is always positive."
The match was marked by aggressive physical play as Sporting KC came out strong, determined to extend their domination as they won both contests last season over LAFC. However that resulted in five yellow cards and the one red card that allowed LAFC to capitalize in the final minute of the match.
Remarkably LAFC was the most fouled team in its inaugural season, a compliment to the progressive offensive style instituted by head coach Bob Bradley from the start. "We spoke about the fact that we have to continue to be aggressive, we have to continue to go by people, dribble," said Bradley
"When they have that many yellows at halftime, that's not easy so we knew that was, at that point, something we had to continue to use in our favor."
He spoke about the LAFC fans' impact: "The fan base has been incredible from day one, they're there for us and we love it... That part of it is just so special that every time we play a home game we continue to have that first game feeling every time. Once you have them every game right there, loud, with you, you've got to play the kind of football they appreciate."
LAFC is still smarting from being dismissed in the opening round of last season's MLS Playoffs, suffering a 3-2 upset at home to 6th seeded Real Salt Lake. LAFC threatened to increase its 2-1 lead only to be stunned by two Real goals within 11 minutes midway through the second half.
The LAFC front office acquired nine players during the off-season to support a team who surprisingly and quickly developed a winning chemistry in its inaugural season under Bradley: goalkeepers Pablo Sisniega and Phillip Ejimadu; defenders Lamar Batista, Niko Hamalainen, Eddie Segura and Mohomed El-Munir; midfielder Alejandro Guido and forwards Adrien Perez and Rodolfo Zelaya.
Starting the 2019 season for LAFC: goalkeeper Tyler Miller; defenders Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman, Eddie Segura and Jordan Harve; midfielders Lee Nguyen, Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye; forwards Carlos Vela, Christian Ramirez and Diego Rossi. Diomande replaced Ramirez in the 59th minute, Latif Blessing came in for Nguyen in the 72nd minute and Peter-Lee Vassel substituted for Rossi in minute 85.
Coach Bradley also added a few new entertaining wrinkles during the postgame press conference to the cross-town rivalry with the L.A. Galaxy. The Galaxy came from behind in both contests last season with LAFC, winning the first game 4-3 while tying the second match 2-2 at Banc of California Stadium.
"I'm ending El Traffico. No mas! It's La Classico! L-A, La Classico," exclaimed Bradley. "Throw that El Traffico thing out the window. We didn't win one game in El Traffico. Now it's called La Classico."
Needless to say, it was a winning gesture in the room and a direct shot at what can be presumed as a false narrative created by the media in an effort to generate interest last season between the two teams. Without a doubt, this LAFC franchise with a rabid fan base holding court in an already renowned state-of-the-art soccer stadium has held its own since Day 1.