Los Angeles Football Club Defeats Seattle
April 25, 2019
No doubt, LAFC and Banc of California Stadium are made for each other. Amid the sold-out crowds, the formidable 3252 supporters union and the natural grass field, the team is quickly evolving in its very short, successful history. They put in 90 solid minutes to rout Seattle Sounders FC, 4-1, last Sunday, the opener of a two-game series between the Western Conference leaders.
"Look, without getting technical or anything else... is just to have a chance to see a group of guys play 90 minutes that looks like that," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.
"That doesn't mean every play is perfect but, in terms of energy, in terms of ideas, in terms of mobility, in terms of trying to take the things you do every day and turn it into something that everybody inside our club, and all the players, even the ones that aren't on the field, can really enjoy and feel like that's why we do it."
That script will be rewritten when the teams meet in this Sunday's rematch at CenterLink Field in Seattle. The Sounders played without two starting forwards and a center back against a full LAFC lineup. The natural grass at The Banc, constantly watered down as most top international teams prefer to make the field quicker and more critical, is what LAFC is thriving on.
The synthetic pitch at CenterLink is more adhesive, throttling the pace of play. "I wish they'd get a grass field, but what can I say, with all the great things that Seattle has done, I have tremendous respect and admiration," said Bradley. "Next week's going to be a different game, in part because it's going to be on turf. It's just a fact."
Despite the absence of Will Bruin, Raul Ruidiaz and Chad Marshall, Seattle came into Los Angeles to dislodge the Black and Gold. LAFC quickly squelched that thought, dominating tempo and time of possession for most of the first half while taking a 2-0 lead into halftime.
Almost expectedly, LAFC forward Carlos Vela scored the opening goal in the 12th minute off a threaded pass from midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. Vela beat Sounders goalkeeper Stephan Frei with a straight punch into the left corner of the net. It was the first of three assists for Kaye in the match. It was Vela's MLS-leading ninth goal of the season.
Vela said others deserved props: "Sometimes we talk about only my goals, but the work done by all the team is really good. When they play well, it's easy for us to score goals. It's hard work from all of the team. I have to say congratulations for everybody."
Seattle's midfield lapse in the 39th minute allowed Kaye to pass to midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who hammered a 2-0 lead into the left corner of the goal. The festive crowd exploded while the 3252 supporters rocked the stadium with infectious chants among the victory smoke on Easter Sunday in Downtown L.A.
"My confidence is really good," answered Atuesta. "I have the advantage of already being here for a year playing in the league and getting to know my teammates. I had the opportunity to have a preseason with the team and that's really important. I feel like it's reflected in the games this season."
Seattle made things interesting six minutes into the second half when Harry Shipp slipped a shot into the left corner past LAFC goaltender Tyler Miller to cut the lead to 2-1. The goal snapped Miller's recent scoreless minute streak at 376 minutes. His seven total goals allowed for the season ties the league lead with L.A. Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham.
Who else but Vela... to restore order four minutes later. Taking a feed from Latif Blessing just inside the penalty box, Vela swept left of Frei and angled a roller into the right corner of the goal. Vela leads the MLS with 10 goals scored and is tied with teammate Kaye and Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo for the league lead in assists with five each.
LAFC's last goal was a variation classic: a give-and-go from Christian Ramirez' back heel to Kaye, back to Ramirez breaking from his defenders. His quick low shot into the right corner of the goal brought the house down in the 61st minute. It was Ramirez' second goal of the season and fourth in 15 games playing with LAFC starting last season.
"He covers so much ground and wins so many balls," said Ramirez of Kaye. "He's like our anchor in there. He's got that bite to him. So, it's something special to have him. We definitely missed that last year."
Despite the home success, Ramirez dismissed the suggestion the team is much more suited at home than on the road: "I think we've been pretty good on the road this year so far. But, there's nothing like playing at home. We feed off of the energy of the crowd. Teams sometimes break when we have that pressure on them and it's mounting. And we get an early goal like we did today."