LA Football Club Needs Win After Draw against Philly
Face Toronto Saturday in Los Angeles
September 19, 2019
With four matches remaining in the 2019 regular Major League Soccer season, first place Los Angeles Football Club is in dire need of a victory following another draw on the road at Philadelphia Union last Saturday. This weekend LAFC will attempt to win for the first time in five matches as they try to secure the Supporters' Shield for the best record in the league.
Toronto FC will be visiting Banc of California Stadium on Saturday, September 21 starting at 7:30 p.m. Toronto is three points away from securing an Eastern Conference spot in next month's MLS Playoffs. LAFC locked down home-field advantage for the Western Conference postseason last week. A win over Toronto will practically give them the top-seed for the entire playoffs.
After winning five of their first eight matches of the season Toronto only earned one victory in their next 11 matches. However, they are returning to form while having not lost in their last seven league games, including winning three of their last five. LAFC's was untouchable for a greater part of the season but have only earned three points out of a possible 12 in their last four matches.
Toronto FC is led by midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo with 11 goals and 11 assists this season and forward Jozy Altidore, who has 10 goals and six assists. The team is currently fourth in the league with 53 goals scored. LAFC leads the league in scoring by a wide margin with 77 goals, 21 more than their closest rival, New York City FC with 56.
Perhaps tilting the tables slightly for LAFC on Saturday is that Toronto has an away derby match with Canadian rival Montreal Impact this Wednesday. A physically and mentally spent TFC coming to the Banc should favor the Black and Gold. LAFC won the first encounter ever between the two clubs last season, a 4-2 victory at BMO Field in Toronto.
LAFC's 1-1 draw with Philadelphia at Talen Energy Field last Saturday was another frustrating affair. Once again, they fell behind very early in the match and had to scramble to get the equalizer in the first half. With the Union matching LAFC pass for pass and kick for kick, even the return of league MVP Carlos Vela wasn't enough to overcome the team's only slump of the season.
"It's a terrible way to start. When you come in and you have a big game and you know the other team is looking at it as a major test, that's just impossible to start the game that way," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.
Union forward Kacper Przybylko scored his 14th goal of the season in the 3rd minute of the match. Przybylko hit a lovely header over the outstretched reach of LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller. The goal sequence started with a long kick past midfield by Philly goalkeeper Andre Blake, an ill-placed header by LAFC defender Jordan Harvey to Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya to Fabrice-Jean Picault who sent a perfect cross to Przybylko.
LAFC forward Diego Rossi on the team's poor start: "I thought they out played us in the first half. We couldn't get a hold of the ball and we didn't play our style. I think the second half was a little bit better. We controlled the ball, controlled the game... But anytime we get on the field, we want three points, so were disappointed right now."
Carlos Vela finally tied the score in 43rd minute off of a rebound from midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye hitting crossbar. Even though it was officially scored as an unassisted goal, Rossi's deft lob set up Kaye's one-touch near-miss off the crossbar. It was Vela's league leading 28th goal of the season, currently two better than L.A. Galaxy star forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Brian Rodriguez substituted for Vela in the 66th minute, a precautionary measure by Bradley as Vela recovers from a hamstring issue that kept him out for the past two matches.
"It's hard. After three weeks, it's difficult to come in and play the 90 minutes," said Vela.
"I tried to do my best, I tried to put my body until it said to me: "Stop!" We talked about how many minutes before the game, so we were expecting to play 60 or 70 minutes, plus all in the right way. I think I'm ready to be a part of the team like normal and try to come back to my best level."
Without Vela, LAFC has not looked confident and it has shown on the scoreboard. They scored 16 goals in the five consecutive games prior to their recent slide when they only scored seven total goals in their last four games. With seven players having just returned from national team duties, Bradley hopes his players reestablish their lethal and attractive style before the MLS Cup Playoffs begin.
Bradley: "Everyone knows that international breaks are a real challenge. Guys come back having traveled, having played minutes, not every team that they go and play on plays the exact same way as we do. It's hard."