LAFC Make It Rain On Houston In 4-2 Win
In a much anticipated match for the fans, LAFC returned to Banc of California Stadium last night to host Houston Dynamo. This was the first time that the two sides were facing each other since that U.S. Open Cup semifinal game in early August, in which LAFC suffered a heartbreaking penalty-shootout loss. Although a win against Houston would not be deemed as revenge per se, it would definitely provide LAFC supporters a feeling of satisfaction in MLS play.
Thousands of fans lined up outside the stadium gates as early as two hours prior to kick off. Why? LAFC was having it’s first-ever bobble head giveaway featuring head coach Bob Bradley. With only the first 10,000 fans in attendance receiving the “Bob-blehead”, the stadium filled up early on a cloudy but beautiful night to play soccer
The fans were in their seats, the players were on the pitch and the ball was in the middle of the field. It was time to play.
As usual, LAFC was the team that managed the tempo of the game by attacking Houston and maintaining possession of the ball in the opposition’s side. The first half-hour of the match was all LAFC with shots from Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela coming close to fruition. Rossi’s shot required a save from Tyler Deric while Vela’s strike hit the net from the outside after a beautiful curling pass from Jordan Harvey.
Vela also sent in two crosses from free kicks, one from the right side and one from the left, to each of his center backs. The first cross met Walker Zimmerman’s head in the box but his contact with the ball was weak and it fell right to the gloves of Deric. The second cross connected with Danilo Silva but the defender barely got his right foot on the ball and Deric was there again for the save.
Just when things were starting to look bright and clear for LAFC, the strangest thing happened and everything turned upside down for them. Not only did it begin to rain heavily, there was thunder. For one reason or another, the change in weather also changed the momentum of the game.
In the 32nd minute, Steven Beitashour got stuck up top fighting for a loose ball and left his right side wide open for Houston to attack. Mauro Manotas saw the gap and dribbled his way through the two remaining LAFC defenders. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Silva rushed to the ball and made a great sliding tackle, winning the ball for his team, or not. The ball fell in between Zimmerman and Nguyen, whose lack of communication resulted in Houston getting the ball back and scoring through Manotas after a good combination of passes that left LAFC’s defense frozen.
A few minutes later, the referee decided to temporarily suspend the match due to thunderstorm conditions and mark the first time-ever that a game was delayed for bad weather at Banc of California Stadium. It was truly a rare sighting to see this happening in Los Angeles, where it hardly ever rains. The players went back to their locker rooms and the fans made their way to the concourse area for safety reasons. However, the 3252 stayed to jump and sing in the North End during the 105-minute delay in demonstration to just how dedicated they are to their club. It was truly a remarkable act to witness. The fans were rewarded for their patience with the Dodgers playoff game being put up on the big screen as they waited for the soccer match to resume.
After almost two hours of waiting, the game resumed with ten minutes left to play in the first half. The extended break worked wonders for LAFC and specifically the team captain. Vela had played a dreadful first 30 minutes losing the ball several times and not being sharp on his passes.
In the 42nd minute, Vela made a great run towards goal at the top of the box and Nguyen picked him out. Vela then dribbled around the goalkeeper before being brought down in the box for a penalty kick. With a left footed shot, Vela equalized for LAFC from the spot and scored his third penalty kick of the season. It was 1-1 at the half with momentum on LAFC’s side.
For the second half, Vela was the motor of the team and drove his side forward in an MVP-esque performance. His efforts would later earn him MOTM recognition.
In the 52nd minute, Silva played a long precise ball to Rossi, who brought the ball down with class. Vela made another great run and Rossi played him wide. Vela then crossed the ball into the box to AdamaDiomande, who created separation from his defender after good movement and tapped it in goal to give LAFC the lead.
The goal had somewhat of a special meaning because it was the first time in the season that Vela had assisted to Diomande for a goal. The trio of Rossi, Vela and Dio were all involved in this goal and showed their chemistry is in full-effect just in time for the playoffs. It was Dio’s 12th goal of the season and his second consecutive game getting on the score sheet.
Just five minutes later, LAFC were awarded a corner kick and Vela was getting ready to take it. The Mexican international hit an out-swinger towards Silva. However, Silva was a decoy and let the ball go over him into none other than Zimmerman’s left foot as he crushed the ball into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season and Vela’s 12th assist. Zimmerman has turned into a corner kick scoring machine as all of his goals have come from them. LAFC are 2nd best in the West when it comes to scoring from set pieces with 12 goals.
With a healthy 3-1 lead after scoring three goals in 15 minutes, LAFC took its foot off the gas pedal for a bit and allowed Houston to have more ball possession for the next few minutes. Tyler Miller was called upon for the first time in the game as he made a good save down low after Manotas hit a rocket towards goal in the 63rd minute. Moments later, Manotas would find himself in the box again but fortunately his shot went wide and high.
LAFC picked up the pace in the 70th minute when Silva made another long pass to Rossi and the Uruguayan curled his shot just over the bar. It was so close. Five minutes later, Rossi would get a second chance to score after receiving a pass from Vela that left him all alone with only the goalkeeper to beat. Unfortunately, Rossi did not make an appropriate control and his bad touch allowed the goalkeeper to swat it away. The rebound fell to the feet of Vela, who chipped it over Deric first-time with his weaker right foot for the cherry on top. The Banc erupted in jubilee along with the beer showers in the North End. It was Vela’s 13th goal of the season and now leads the team in that department.
Houston was able to get a consolation goal just minutes after through Wenger due to lack of communication and intensity from LAFC’s backline. Not much happened in the last ten minutes of the match s LAFC focused on maintaining possession as they had 60% of it throughout the game. LAFC had finally beaten Houston and it could not have come at a better time in the season.
If there is one person that has benefited from the departure of Laurent Ciman, it is Carlos Vela. Ever since he was given the captain’s armband, he has put the team on his back and has made it his responsibility to lead by example with excellent performances.
With the win, LAFC jump to 2nd place of the Western Conference and are only one point behind 1st place. In addition, LAFC have won six of their last nine games in a very crucial time of the regular season as they continue to improve and get playoff-ready. With the four goals, LAFC are the second highest-scoring team in MLS with 65 goals, only two goals behind leaders Atlanta United.
Overall, the team has been playing well and has been able to overcome injuries from Mark Anthony-Kaye, Latif Blessing and now Eduard Atuesta. We must give credit to Bob Bradly for making the proper adjustments and making sure that his team does not lose their soccer identity. With only two games remaining in the regular season, one home game and one road game, LAFC are in control of its own destiny and can clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs if they win both games. The way LAFC is playing, that is very possible.
At the end of this match, fans were treated to the first-ever fireworks show at Banc of California Stadium in a perfect ending to an eventful night.
October 13, 2018
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Photography compliments of Los Angeles Football Club.