LA Football Club Faces Tough D.C. United Team
5-0 Win over San Jose Earthquakes
April 4, 2019
The artistry of Carlos Vela was on full display Saturday afternoon during LAFC's 5-0 thrashing of the San Jose Earthquakes. The shutout placed LAFC at the top of the MLS Western Conference standings with 13 points at 4-0-1. And a golden opportunity looms on the horizon: an early-season matchup at Eastern Conference leader D.C. United this Sunday afternoon.
Carlos Vela, who scored his first career MLS hat trick at San Jose, has taken his game to another level. He leads the league with six goals in five games and earned his second Player of the Week honor this season. Vela, igniting the team's offense, has vaulted LAFC to the top of the MLS Power Rankings, one step ahead of unbeaten D.C. United.
"We know this win is important for us and we are trying to play good so our fans enjoy watching us. I think that is the reason we work really hard every day and try to have games like that," said Vela.
"They played one-against-one in all the fields so we have quick guys in the middle and the attacking players, so we find the spaces and the good moment to control the game."
The LAFC fireworks started early as Vela scored the first goal of the game at the 8-minute mark with ease. Quakes goalkeeper Daniel Vega whiffed on a long incoming pass outside the San Jose penalty box. A sprinting Vela swooped in and walked the ball 20-plus yards into the empty net.
Defender Steven Beitashour made it 2-0 with a quick punch courtesy of midfielder Eduard Atuesta's needle-eyed assist. Vela put the game on ice during first-half stoppage time. A three-pass volley down the right side of the pitch fed Vela in the center, who slide-kicked the ball past Vega from a few yards out. The 3-0 lead against the challenged Earthquake defense was insurmountable.
"For us it's a very good win, I think our preparation this week was important because it's still a different kind of game where you really have to have some ideas in term of movement," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.
"Obviously for Carlos a special game. I would make mention that Steve Beitashour is from here and every time we come back it's a really special game for him. Means a lot to the whole group when you see him play well and get a goal."
Beitashour: "Growing up, obviously, I was a ball boy here. I always love playing in front of family and friends. I always try to put on good performances for them, so anytime I play here, I know a lot of my family are watching and they want me to do well, but it's always a little special playing here."
Like it was scripted, Vela saved his best goal for last in the 66th minute. A one-step move outside the penalty box set up a beautiful curling strike into the far upper left corner of the goal to beat Vega one more time. LAFC supporters throughout Avaya Stadium overwhelmed the silent and stunned home crowd.
Two minutes later forward Diego Rossi scored his third goal of the season, a low crossing shot into the left corner of the net. Rossi is tied for fifth in league scoring and only trails Vela's league-leading 10 shots on goal with eight. Vela's three assists is also tied for the league lead with eight other players.
Rossi: "I think when I came here and why I decided to come here is because I had a really good feel about the team and what they will be, and we are enjoying."
Sunday's game against D.C. United is undoubtedly the early MLS Game of the Year. United is tied for first with Columbus Crew SC with 10 points but has played one less game. Their defense has only given up one goal in four games. D.C. is second in the Eastern Conference with nine goals scored.
Audi Field, like Banc of California Stadium, is a soccer-specific stadium in Washington, D.C. with a 20,000 seat capacity. D.C. United had an excellent 13-2-2 home record in Audi Field, which opened last season in July. They have yielded only 16 goals in 19 total matches in the stadium. LAFC is leading the league in scoring this season with 15 goals. Something has to give.
"It's so early in the year but I do think that the experiences from last year have carried over in a very good way," said Bradley. "There is stronger leadership and more of a focus on the way we play and how we can keep getting better. So, we just need to keep going in all those ways."