Game Ends in a Draw for LA Football Club Against Toronto
September 26, 2019
Five matches ago Carlos Vela was replaced in the 66th minute after rallying LAFC to a 3-3 draw against rival L.A. Galaxy in El Traffico 5. The emotional letdown that immediately engulfed Banc of California Stadium was very evident. That Sunday, LAFC lost its season-long mojo over the rest of Major League Soccer... And the team has yet to recover.
With three matches remaining in the regular season LAFC will soon find out if they can secure the MLS Supporters' Shield for best league record. They host Houston Dynamo this Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Banc of California Stadium before traveling to Minnesota United FC for a match on Sunday. They close out the season on Sunday, Oct. 6, at home against the Colorado Rapids.
The Black and Gold, stuck in the middle of a five-game winless drought with four ties to show for it, have a 19-4-8 record and 65 points total. They need seven out of a possible nine points in their remaining matches to eclipse the MLS record of 71 total points earned by the New York Red Bulls just last season.
LAFC escaped by the skin of their teeth last Sunday night, a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC at the Banc. Midfielder Latif Blessing drew a foul in the penalty box late in stoppage time, allowing projected league-MVP Carlos Vela to score the equalizer with his eighth penalty goal conversion of the season. He now leads the league with 29 goals, two more than runner-up Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the L.A. Galaxy.
"Two very different halves. First half I thought we were slow to step up, slow to close down, second to balls. And if you do that against Toronto, where now they can spread you out and start to control the tempo of the game, that was clear," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.
Toronto FC, which is on an eight-match unbeaten streak, took a 1-0 lead on Tsubasa Endoh's angled grounder past goalkeeper Tyler Miller in the 19th minute on a pass from Jozy Altidore. Miller was beaten once again by a routine shot, an alarming trend over the past few months. With substitute Pablo Sisniega also not showing good recent form, the goalkeeping duties will be a focus for LAFC entering the postseason.
"Bob has said he's challenged a lot of guys this season, especially now that we've been in a tough little spell where we haven't won in five games, but those things are going to happen and I think that this is a strong group," said Miller, putting his best foot forward.
"Early on in the season we were turning these ties into wins and right now we're unable to find that same goal that breaks through for us," Miller added. "I think it's a positive in terms of the mentality that we have but we just want to be stronger early on and not give up early goals that put us in the hole."
The team also suffered a major setback when starting striker Adama Diomande voluntarily entered into the MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program last Friday. Dio is barred from team activities that could extend throughout the MLS Playoffs. He is currently third in team scoring with eight goals and fourth in assists with seven.
His absence on Sunday against Toronto moved Bradley to insert recently acquired Brian Rodriguez into front line with Vela and Diego Rossi. Rossi switched to the striker nine position while Rodriguez took Rossi's usual 11 position, outside left. It may be difficult to reestablish the league leading scoring line of Vela, Rossi and Dio. They had combined for 51 goals before Diomande's suspension.
The Houston Dynamo come into Wednesday's match following a 2-1 victory over Orlando City SC. They are led by former LAFC forward Christian Ramirez, who had a goal and an assist in their latest win. LAFC beat Houston 3-1 on the road in July, coming from behind with two goals from Diomande and one from Rossi. Last season, LAFC secured a win and a draw against the Dynamo.
"We know that going in we're going to play against Houston who have had an up and down year but we know they're a quality side and we're going to have to quickly turn around in training," said Miller of this Wednesday night's contest. "It's just another opportunity for us to look in the mirror, push the refresh button, and really step up our game."