Earthquakes, Galaxy to Challenge LA Football Club
Trounce Real Salt Lake 2-0
August 22, 2019
Records are starting to fall by the wayside, yet Los Angeles Football Club has two important home games at Banc of California Stadium this week. Despite being the earliest MLS club to clinch a playoff spot in league history with a 2-0 clean sheet victory at Real Salt Lake last Saturday, LAFC will be tested by Western Conference challengers, San Jose Earthquakes and L.A. Galaxy.
The Earthquakes visit Banc of California Stadium on Wednesday, August 21 and the Galaxy will travel crosstown from Carson to take on LAFC in El Trafico 5 this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Both opponents are in the MLS Playoff picture with a quarter of the regular season remaining. LAFC is dominating the league with 58 points, San Jose is in sixth place with 38 points while the Galaxy are in third with 41 points.
San Jose has enjoyed a resurgence this season under first-year head coach Matias Almeyda. The Earthquakes were by far the worst team in the league last season, compiling a 4-21-9 record, good for only 21 points. Their 11-9-5 this season is a very credible. They are led by forward Chris Wondolowski, who became MLS's all-time leading scorer earlier this year. He also leads the team with 10 goals this season.
"Matias Almeyda has done a really good job," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. Two games with them we know what it's like when they're tight man-to-man. Got to find different ways to move and open up space. So, we'll look back on our first two games with them... and expect a good test, a really good game."
LAFC has beaten the Earthquakes twice this season: a 5-0 washing in San Jose's Avaya Stadium in late March and a 3-1 battle at the Banc during the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 in June. Forward Carlos Vela scored three goals and one assist for LAFC in the first match. The three-headed scoring machine of Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande and Vela touched the scoreboard in their second contest.
Diomande expects a physical challenge from the Earthquakes in Wednesday night's clash: "I think it's going to be a difficult game. San Jose's in form and they're playing a style that nobody plays in MLS. Of course it's always difficult to meet them. We know our own playing style and how to prepare for that game. We'll be ready for it."
Sunday's El Trafico 5 against the Galaxy is another matter. LAFC has failed to register a win in four El Trafico matches that started last season. LAFC has two draws in the derby series and has led in three of the four matches. The Galaxy won the initial match last season, 4-3, at then StubHub Center in Carson as star forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his dramatic MLS debut scoring two goals.
Last month at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Ibrahimovic put on a spectacular display, nailing three goals in a 3-2 win over the Black and Gold. Vela had both goals for LAFC in vain. In the two MLS stars head-to-head competition, both Veal and Zlatan have six goals each. Five other players from both teams have a total of five goals combined in the derby.
LAFC's record win at Real Salt Lake last Saturday allowed them to clinch a playoff spot in 25 matches. The previous mark of 27 was held by three teams: San Jose (2012), Seattle Sounders (2014) and Atlanta United last season. LAFC is also likely to set the record for most points in one season (71 points by New York Red Bulls last season), needing only 14 more in nine remaining matches.
LAFC struggled in the first half as RSL controlled over 50% possession of the ball. Defender Walker Zimmerman added to LAFC's woes, receiving a red card in the 48th minute. But Vela reset the table by getting dragged down in the penalty box by RSL's Aaron Herrera in the 64th minute. He converted the penalty kick giving LAFC a 1-0 lead while Herrera received a red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.
Vela, this year's runaway MVP candidate, also set the MLS record for most combined goals and assists in one season with 39. The previous high was by Sebastian Giovinco at 38, who scored 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015. Vela currently has 24 goals and 15 assists and is on target to score 33 goals and 21 assists for the season.
LAFC took advantage with both teams playing 10-on-10 for the remainder of the match. In the 82nd minute Diomande directed a hard shot into the back of the net off of a feed from substitute midfielder Lee Nguyen. Dio's eighth goal of the season gave LAFC a reliable 2-0 lead. It was also goalkeeper Tyler Miller's eighth shutout of the season in 21 matches played.
"I think it's a good result. First start, not so good. We had a lot of transition chances and we didn't hit them," said Diomande. "We responded very well. I think when they got 10-men down, too, we responded well. We got that final goal and just cruise it in and we got the clean sheet."