LAFC conquers Salt Lake, but Rapids postponed

It was a very good week on the field in contrasting ways for Los Angeles Football Club. Sunday night's 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah was the team's first road-win of the season. On Wednesday, MLS announced that the regular-season game at Banc of California Stadium between the Colorado Rapids and LAFC, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed after one new confirmed case of COVID-19 among the Rapids staff.

Major League Soccer announced: "Following one new confirmed case of COVID-19 among the Colorado Rapids staff, Major League Soccer, in consultation with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and infectious disease experts, have postponed the match to ensure the health and safety of all players and staff. Further details regarding when this match will be played will be announced at a later date."

It was the third consecutive Rapids match to be postponed. The September 27th match against Sporting Kansas City was postponed due to positives tests for one Rapids player and three staff members. The October 3rd contest with the Portland Timbers was postponed after positive tests on two players and eight staff members. Those games have been rescheduled. No date has yet been set for the rematch with LAFC.

The break gives the LAFC players and staff a much-needed respite off the pitch, as it has been averaging almost two matches per week since the league resumed play in late August. The tight schedule has also compromised the team's normal preparation for upcoming matches. Following LAFC's meteoric rise in two seasons, it is uncharacteristically in a tie for fifth place, nine points behind the first-place Seattle Sounders FC. Coincidentally, The Black and Gold will take on the Sounders in Seattle this Sunday afternoon, October 11.

The defending Champion Sounders are currently in excellent form and have won five of their last six matches, including a 2-1 battle over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night, October 7. With 30 points, they are fifth in the league's Supporters' Shield standings but have played one less match than the four clubs above them. Seattle has a record of 9-3-3 compared to LAFC's current record of 6-6-3 with eight matches remaining in the regular season for both teams.

The Sounders are led in scoring by 3-year forward Raul Ruidiaz, who has nine goals and three assists this season. Forward Jordan Morris, five seasons playing in Seattle, has scored seven goals and leads the team with seven assists. Midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, also in his fifth season with the club, has four goals and six assists. 12-year veteran goalkeeper Stefan Frei is in his seventh season with Seattle, has earned the club's Defender of the Year and Team MVP in the past two seasons.

The Sounders shutout LAFC, 3-0, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle the last time both teams met on September 18. Lodeiro converted two penalty kicks in the first half to stem LAFC's attack. The penalty shots were awarded respectively on defender Dejan Jakovic's handball and Latif Blessings foul in the box. Ruidiaz scored the final goal in the 82nd minute to secure the clean sheet. LAFC will feed on that in preparing for Sunday's rematch.

The win against Real Salt Lake was an important win according to head coach Bob Bradley. "Not our best football. It's not an easy game to play but the resiliency is important. We scored three very good goals and then after the own goal I thought we did a good job of concentrating and finishing out the match."

LAFC took care of business early against RSL. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips put away a rebound from forward Diego Rossi's just-miss off the post in the 22nd minute for a 1-0 lead. "It obviously feels good to bounce back and get the win," said Wright-Phillips. "I think we had a nice seven-day week of training and then I think today wasn't the prettiest. But we got three points. We were resilient and that's what we needed to do."

Five minutes later midfielder Jose Cifuentes fed Rossi for a 2-0 lead. It was Rossi's 12th goal of season, which leads the league. Ruidiaz and Gyasi Zardes of the Columbus Crew follow with nine goals each. Wright-Phillips, who is right behind with eight goals scored, assisted on LAFC's final goal in the 59th minute, a beautiful play by forward Brian Rodriguez. Dashing and splitting two Seattle defenders, Rodriguez placed a deft soft touch over the oncoming Frei for his second goal of the season.

Salt Lake got its only score in the 64th on an own goal by LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta. Wright-Phillips: "I think the goal they scored was a little bit unfortunate. But I think us staying compact when we needed to, being narrow and pressing as a team is a positive we can look at. LAFC midfielder José Cifuentes concluded: "I'm very happy with the victory. I think if we hadn't gotten the result tonight, I would've left very disappointed. It's what we as a team and me personally were looking for tonight."


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