LA Football Club Tie with Crosstown Galaxy
August 29, 2019
LAFC is preparing to host Minnesota United FC this Sunday night at Banc of California Stadium with a lingering foul taste in its mouth. Despite rallying to a 3-3 draw in El Trafico 5, the Los Angeles Football Club again failed to register their first-ever win over crosstown rival L.A. Galaxy in last Sunday night's clash at the Banc.
"Two parts to this thing," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley following ET5. "Obviously, there's just what's hanging over our heads which is beating the Galaxy. When you don't do it, there's a part to it that still stings and it will continue to hang over our heads."
"But what goes with that is the part of continuing to grow as a team and I still think that the package of things it takes to be a great team, most are going in the right direction."
The Black and Gold began last week at home on Wednesday with a 4-0 shelling over Western Conference challenger San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes were expected to give LAFC all they could handle given their resurgence from last year's bitter season. Instead, a 3-0 first-half barrage from LAFC's front line left little doubt as to the final outcome.
With four points earned during the week's action, LAFC (19-3-5, 62 points) is well on its way to shattering Major League Soccer's record for most points in a season. The club is leading its closest rivals, Atlanta United FC and Philadelphia Union, by 14 points with seven matches remaining before it can claim its first major trophy, the Supporters' Shield.
Minnesota comes to L.A. tied for fourth place in the Western Conference and only one point out of second place with little over a month to go in the regular MLS season. The Loons are showing good form lately with six wins, two losses and three ties in their last 11 matches. However, they lost 1-0 at Sporting Kansas City in their last match.
MNFC is led by explosive forward/midfielder Darwin Quintero who has eight goals and five assists this season. The 30-year old Columbian won consecutive CONCACAF Champions League titles in 2015 and 2016 playing with Mexican club América before joining Minnesota last season. Midfielder Ethan Finley is second in goals with six while midfielder Jan Gregus leads the team with eight assists.
The 3-0 tie with the Galaxy began as the Zlatan Ibrahimovic Nightmare Show once again for LAFC as the international star scored two goals in the first 15 minutes. Zlatan defiantly stood in front of the 3252 Supporters section after each goal scored. LAFC's defense and goalkeeper Tyler Miller have yet to find an answer as he has now scored eight total goals in only five matches against them.
One minute later midfielder Cristian Pavon made the score 3-1 for the Galaxy in front of stadium's north-end while LAFC's 3252 Supporters Group were chanting and drumming up a storm in spite of the deficit.
"I think the first half was good, we did very good. We had a couple chances more to score, then conceded the second goal that was too cheap, I think, and we made simple mistakes," said Zlatan. "Pavon, he came out lately, he's in the picture now from the last two to three weeks, and I said he's a quality player. And when you play with quality players, it's easier to play."
Midfielder Latif Blessing kept LAFC in the match by tying the score at 1-1 in the 12th minute with a close header. He completed his brace with a short dribble and easy touch from a deflected kick by league MVP leader Carlos Vela during the first minute of stoppage time. Trailing only 3-2 going into halftime felt like a reprieve for LAFC.
Sure enough, Vela converted the equalizer eight minutes into the second half on a give and go to Mark-Anthony Kaye. The momentum had completely swung in LAFC's favor, the frenzied crowd swooning with the thought of beating the Galaxy. Yet, the dream completely dissipated nine minutes later when Bradley replaced Vela with newly acquired forward Brian Rodriguez.
Vela threw his captain's armband down in anger as he visibly didn't want to leave the pitch. Bradley pulled Vela due to hamstring issues, not wanting to risk injury. LAFC kept pushing the ball into multiple scoring opportunities but couldn't get the deciding goal. The defense also stiffened, allowing only two Galaxy shot on goals in the second half.
Blessing: "I'm a little disappointed, I think we need to win this game as well as have a mentality to win. If you want to be the champion, any game you come out to win. We were going into this game to win but it didn't happen the way we wanted." LAFC will have to wait until next year but could meet the Galaxy at the Banc this October if things work out during the MLS Playoffs.
Vela also earned MLS Player of the Week honors primarily based on his exploits in the 4-0 win over San Jose. He scored two goals, the first on a penalty kick to give LAFC a 2-0 lead in the 17th minute. Diego Rossi had scored in the 6th minute for a 1-0 lead. Vela's goal in the 41st minute was one for the highlight reel when he dribbled through several defenders and the goalkeeper before punching home a short goal.
"It was a nice play by Diego, great pass, and after that I just see players and I just say: "Do something," said Vela. "I took the ball and kept running, dribbling, and in the end it was a good goal, a good moment. But what was important for me in the end was the victory, another win for the team."