LA Football Club Faces FC Dallas Twice
Blank Columbus Crew SC 3-0
May 16, 2019
Los Angeles Football Club, currently with the best record in Major League Soccer (8-1-3), looks to improve its standard by taking on FC Dallas twice this week in a pair of Western Conference clashes. With an MLS schedule break coming soon due to the Concacaf Gold Cup from June 15 – July 7, this is the second time this season the team has had to play an opponent sequentially.
FC Dallas (5-4-2), respectably in fifth place with 17 points, has lost its last two games and was held to a scoreless draw at home by a challenged San Jose Earthquakes squad the previous match. LAFC hosts FC Dallas this Thursday night, 7:00 p.m. at Banc of California Stadium. Dallas returns the favor this Sunday, May 19, 4:30 p.m. PDT at Toyota Stadium.
LAFC has an overwhelming edge in goals scored, 29-16, goals allowed, 8-14, and goal differential, 21-2. Jesus Ferreira is Dallas' leading scorer with four goals while Reto Ziegler has three for the season. LAFC has 172 total shots to Dallas' 91. 78 of LAFC's shots have been on target compared to 48 for FC Dallas. The Black and Gold have suffered the most fouls this season with 182 while Dallas has been fouled 146 times.
LAFC took very little time to right the ship after its recent "slump." They won their third road game (remarkably each a shutout) of the season, wearing down Columbus Crew SC, 3-0, last Saturday before a crowd of 18,048 at Mapfre Stadium. The Crew had broken a five-game losing streak three days earlier at home in a 3-1 win over LA Galaxy.
With only 46 total games played in league history under head coach Bob Bradley, LAFC has quickly established itself as a serious MLS Cup contender and impact setter. Opponents are paying the ultimate compliment by readjusting their defenses to contend with the Black and Gold's progressive offensive style supported by a quick and effective midfield.
The defense is evolving into one the league's stingiest. Anchored by goalkeeper Tyler Miller, the team has allowed only eight goals through 12 matches in 2019. Miller is tied for third in league with five shutouts and leads in goals allowed average with 0.67 among goalkeepers who have played in 10 games or more. He leads with eight wins and is tied for second in minutes played with 1080.
"Columbus came out and made it very difficult for us from the beginning," said Miller. "But once we were able to find and connect a few passes we really made it simple for ourselves and we were able to find some good windows and create good opportunities."
LAFC had numerous shots at goalkeeper Joe Bendik to no avail in the first 30 minutes at Columbus. It was especially frustrating for forward Diego Rossi who sailed three of four shots beyond the goal posts during the match. A fourth shot from point blank was deflected over the post by Bendik. Christian Ramirez was also held scoreless in three attempts, two on goal.
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye broke the scoreless tie in the 37th with a one-touch half-pass/half-shot intended for Ramirez. Instead the ball beat Bendik and everyone to the left corner of the goal. Midfielder Latif Blessing and forward Carlos Vela assisted on the eye-pleasing goal. The 1-0 lead remained until the final minutes of the game.
"Not always sharp in the final part of the field but still I thought the mentality of the group was really good when the goal didn't come right away," said Bradley. "There was a real concentration to just keep doing the same things."
In the 88th minute, Adama Diomande, who had substituted for Ramirez in the 65th minute, mopped up Josh Perez' easy put-away that missed and rebounded off the left goal post. Perez had substituted for Rossi in the 79th minute. The score sealed the deal.
Two minutes later Vela scored his league-leading 12th goal of the season, a classic dribble sprint towards the penalty box for a 25-yard left-footed bender into the back left corner of the goal. It looked as sweet as Vela's form has been this season. He is tied for the league lead in assists (6), leads in shots attempted (24) and shots on goal with 28. Rossi ranks second in shot on goal with 17.
"Those kind of games for goalkeepers aren't easy because for the most part we're the team pushing forward," said Bradley. "His concentration, I think that part's really improved and then when we need him to make a save he's there."
"In the end we were able to put in a good defensive effort and close out the game with a win and a shutout," replied Miller. "I'm just focused and trying to be ready for that one time that I'm needed to keep the team in the game."