Los Angeles Football Club 2020 Game 03 vs Houston Dynamo Monday, July 13, 2020
July 23, 2020
The MLS is back and so is LAFC. Thanks to a two-goal deficit comeback in the second half, the Black and Gold were able to tie the Houston Dynamo, 3-3, in the Group Stage F, Round 1 match of the MLS Is Back Tournament. 24 Major League Soccer clubs are competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando, Florida in Bay Lake, ending with the Championship Match scheduled on August 11.
Playing without the services of league MVP Carlos Vela, the Black and Gold were still knocking off the four-month rust in the first half as the Dynamo used a opportunistic counter-attack to mount a 3-1 first half lead. But two significant goals by Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez restored order and gave LAFC the momentum by the 69th minute.
"Very pleased that there are moments of good football," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley. "Our ideas continue to go in a good direction. Certainly where our moments of sharpness are not what we want. They have some dangerous attackers, so in transition we were a little slow to react on plays and paid the price."
"But I really liked in the second half that we were able to vary it, make some of those passes right off of the edge of the defense and get Brian and Diego into good positions. I thought that we were able to push the game in the second half and that's a credit to the work that the guys have put in."
Houston midfielder Memo Rodriguez opened the scoring in the 9th minute, securing a loose ball outside the box and delivering a well-placed shot inside the left goal post past diving LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer. Ten minutes later, Bradley Wright-Phillips, scored the equalizer by stretching a pass from Diego Rossi into the net.
Wright-Phillips, a two-time MLS Golden Boot winner, was signed in February after having played for the New York Red Bulls for the past seven seasons. It was his first goal in his first game playing for LAFC. The prolific scorer has now put away 109 goals in 196 MLS games played and should figure prominently in the club's scoring attack this season.
Houston kept countering with deep passes, retaking the lead as Memo Rodriguez scored his brace in the 30th minute on a cross and a short rebound. "We didn't handle of couple of plays. Memo Rodriguez on the first goal outside the box, instead of just closing down we turned our back," said Bradley.
"The second one, again, when Rodriguez came in from deep, the reaction in the defense, Tristan (Blackmon) was a little slow to react. That's a play he has to make for us. And the free kick goal, we didn't handle well."
The Dynamo upped the ante just before half as forward Alberth Elis headed a one-bouncer on a perfectly placed free kick by Darwin Quintero. Vermeer and LAFC's defense has now allowed three goals in two consecutive matches this season as they also scrambled for a 3-3 tie with the Philadelphia Union on March 8 at Banc of California Stadium.
Bradley: "We certainly don't want to give up goals but we want to play football where we control games, where we push forward, where we win balls back quickly... But this is part of the process. If you want to be a team that plays upfield, then you have to have the courage to defend high. Your defenders have to be able to cover space behind."
LAFC turned the tide in the second half with a scintillating shot by Diego Rossi in the 63rd minute. It was the kind of goal that places Rossi on a short list elite scorers in the league, a meaningful shot that changed the nature of the match. His hard right bender past goalkeeper Marco Maric had the Dynamo suddenly concerned while cutting the lead, 3-2.
Six minutes later, forward Brian Rodriguez scored his first goal ever for LAFC, who slipped Latif Blessing's touch pass into the back of the goal. It was a highly anticipated goal in his tenth match from Rodriguez that the club and supporters have been expecting since he joined last season. It was a minor miracle that Houston was able hold off the Black and Gold's attack for the remainder of the match to secure the 3-3 tie.
"And it's been really good for me to see guys like Mark-Anthony Kaye, (Eddie) Segura, Diego Rossi and Eduard (Atuesta) step up and take more responsibility in the group. It's something that we're very happy about... I think our training continued to push guys. I wasn't surprised that we could still push the game the way that we did. That part is all the players take responsibility," said Bradley.
"I thought that there were a lot of times in the game where we lost balls in the attacking part of the field, our reactions and counter-pressing were really good. That still tells me that those are the kinds of ideas that our team appreciates and that we use to play good football."
LAFC next takes on crosstown rival LA Galazy in Group F play this Saturday, July 18, in the continuing saga of El Trafico. LAFC defeated the Galaxy 5-3 in last season's most anticipated MLS Playoff match at the Banc. They finish up Group F action on Thursday, July 23 against the Portland Timber. The top two finishers of each Group as well as the next four best records advance to the Round of 16 beginning July 25.