LA Football Club Pulls a Draw Against Philadelphia Union
Missed Opportunities Leads to 3-3 Final
March 12, 2020
The pitch is already heating up for LAFC in only the second match of the 2020 MLS season at Banc of California Stadium. The full moon eve clash had the look, sound and feel of a mid-season slugfest as the Black and Gold survived multiple knock-down punches from Philadelphia Union before a primed crowd on Sunday night. LAFC quickly and decisively erased the deficit three times for the 3-3, 107-minute draw. Yet, golden opportunities were missed.
"We created a lot of chances but in moments when we needed to be more precise and find smart ways to slow the game down, take time to make sure and to get a play right," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley following the disappointing outcome. "We weren't good enough in those ways and then it's never good to give up three goals."
Regardless, there will be little time to dwell on the sub-par defensive effort as LAFC will entertain Mexico's Liga MX power, Cruz Azul, at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, March 12, at the Banc for Leg 1 of the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals. LAFC advanced by upsetting Club Leon by a 3-2 aggregate score including a 3-0 must-win clean sheet in Leg 2 of the Round of 16 at the Banc. Cruz Azul took a pair from Portmore United of Jamaica by a combined score of 6-1, including a 4-0 Leg 2 shutout.
Bradley: "From the beginning, we've talked about wanting to do well and testing ourselves against good teams. The second Leg against Leon was a special night, this time we start at home. Cruz Azul has an amazing history and I'm looking forward to it."
Cruz Azul, one of Mexico's elite soccer clubs, has won the Liga MX Championship eight times. Although they haven't won the Mexican League title since 1997, only three clubs have won more. The also have captured six Concacaf Champions League titles, the second most behind Club America and the most recent being in 2014.
Nicknamed La Máquina and officially Cruz Azul Fútbol Club, A.C, the team from Mexico City plays its matches at Estadio Azteca. LAFC and Cruz Azul will meet again for Leg 2 next week at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 18 at the historic Estadio Azteca. La Máquina is managed by Bradley's counterpart, Robert Siboldi. Currently in first place in Liga MX, Cruz Azul's leading scorer is Jonathan Rodriguez with eight goals. Midfielders Roberto Alvarado and Elias Hernandez as well as Olympic Gold Medalist goalkeeper Jose Corona figure prominently for the squad.
Throughout Sunday night at the Banc, LAFC and the Union traded goal for goal, the bulk of them powerful deliveries by six different players. Philly forward Sergio Santos fired the first salvo, a left-footer in the 29th minute from 35+ yards out that caught everyone by surprise. Nine minutes later, current MLS M.V.P. Carlos Vela laced a beauty into the back of the net on a free kick to tie the match at 1-1 on his second goal of the season.
Three minutes into the second half, Union defender Jakob Glesnes nailed a free kick rocket from 40 yards out past LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer for a 2-1 lead. One minute later LAFC forward Diego Rossi scored with a sweet right-footed curler on a long assist from midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. Midfielder Brenden Aaronson gave Philadelphia the lead for the third time with a short blast on an assist from Santos in the 69th minute.
"Whenever you give up three goals it's tough. It's not good enough and you're not going to win many games. There were definitely some plays where we had some last-minute drops where we had to come in and drive," said LAFC defender Dejan Jakovic.
Like clockwork, that set the stage for LAFC defender Eddie Segura's equalizer two minutes later, pouncing on a loose ball that deflected off of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake and crossed the goal line. That prompted The 3252 LAFC Supporters Union behind the north goal to celebrate wildly, anticipating another comeback victory. But Blake came up with a game saver in the last minute, blocking LAFC forward Brian Rodriguez' point-blank attempt off of a delicate pass from Eduard Atuesta.
Bradley on Rodriguez' missed late opportunity: "He's frustrated so you encourage him and keep making sure he understands that by doing the little things right, getting in the right spots that it's going to happen for him. But we all felt bad because right now it feels like he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders and he can't make a play that matters."
"I think we did a pretty good job dealing with second balls. And those are items that you know are going to be important against the Union. Still, a weird early season game, different than other games we've had. The disappointing part is giving up three goals."
The draw left LAFC with four points after two matches and in a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference with rivals Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers. Sporting Kansas City, Minnesota United FC and the Colorado Rapids are tied for first, each with 2-0 records and six points. LAFC's next MLS match will be hosting the Timbers on Sunday, March 22, 6:00 p.m. at the Banc of California Stadium.