New LAFC Captain Carlos Vela Leads Team to Victory

O Canada! LAFC had traveled to the neighboring country up north twice before making their third and final trip of the season last Saturday night. LAFC were looking to beat all three Canadian teams on the road this season and had already obtained victories in Vancouver and Montreal. The last stop was the toughest: Toronto, home of the defending champions. LAFC went into BMO Field and beat the 2017 MLS Cup winners in their own stadium with a score line of 4-2. Not only did LAFC beat all three Canada teams, they outscored them by scoringeleven goals and only conceding five.

This was officially the first game of the post-Cimanera; therefore it was time for a new team captain. After several names were thrown around, Carlos Vela was selected by Bob Bradley to wear the armband. Not only has Vela scored three goals in the past two games since becoming team captain, he has led by example in dropping down to play defense, force turnovers and prove to his teammates that he is ready to be the leader of the team. The Mexican internationalleads the team in goals with eleven after recording a brace versus Toronto FC.

In the first half, LAFC played perfect team defense to Toronto’s star-studded offense, which included Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Tyler Miller continued to show his good form and made a couple of great saves that kept his team in the game. The partnership ofZimerman/Jakovic looked sharp with good positioning and kept the ball away from danger.

Toronto had most of the possession during the first half but was unable to capitalize and reflect their dominance on the scoreboard. LAFC made their ball possession count. Marco Urenaplayed for the first time in a while after missing the last three games due to coach’s decision. Urena showed good hustle and work rate, which led to LAFC’s first goal. The Costa Rica international fought and won the ball in the middle of the field by using his body to protect it and dished it out to Diego Rossi, whose initial shot deflected off Vela for the first goal of the game.

Urena has not had the best season with LAFC and his lack goal-scoring does not help his case. However, he was more involved in the offense than Christian Ramirez had been in the past two games. Urena will always be judged by his goal scoring abilitybut we should not overlook his other traits that can make him a very useful player going forward. It is a matter of time before he regains his confidence and gets on the score sheet.

LAFC’s midfield has been spectacular lately and this match was no exception. Eduard Atuesta has made a name for himself in the center defensive-midfield position after Mark-Anthony Kaye’s season-ending injury. Atuesta was very good on the ball, displayed great defensive work rate, accurate passing and forced about 8 turnovers by intercepting passes from his opponent. LAFC has played 12 games with Atuesta as a starter. Their record is 7W-1L-4D. When Atuesta does not start, LAFC have a record of 6W-6L-3D. Big difference right? The young Colombian is only 21 years-old but is already a crucial part of the starting XI and has proven to be a tremendous signing for the club.

Another midfielder who has slowly been improving his level of play is Andre Horta, the 21 year-old Portuguese youth international. Horta looked confident on the ball, took a couple of shots and started the play of the second goal in the second half with a 40-yard accurate pass to Vela. Bob Bradley is taking it slow with the Horta as he only played him for 60 minutes in this match. However, the youngster is gaining valuable experience as the season continues and will only get better by the time playoffs come around. The first half ended with a 1-0 lead for LAFC.

Toronto FC was playing in front of their home fans and waslooking to start the second half strong by going on full-attack mode. However, LAFC beat them to their own game plan.

Andre Horta made a 40-yard switch from the left to the right wing in the middle of the field. Vela then made another 40-yard pass to Diego Rossi, who finished first-time with the left foot to score his 9th goal of the season. A few minutes later, Vela dribbled through two Toronto players down the right flank before passing the ball into the box to a rushing Lee Nguyen, whose shot converted into his 3rd goal of the season and a 3-0 lead for LAFC. This all happened in the span of five minutes but there was still 40 minutes to be played.

LAFC had numerous chances to increase their lead in Vela, Rossi and Urena but all failed for one reason or another. LAFC held a 3-0 lead up until the 75th minute when Toronto finally got on the scoreboard with a Jozy Altidore goal. With only five minutes to play, Altidore got his brace and cut LAFC’s lead to one goal only with two minutes left on the clock. Just as Toronto were getting ready for a miraculous comeback, Vela put all those hopes to sleep with his second goal of the game with a thunder strike from an impossible angle after displaying another dribbling clinic. Game over. LAFC wins 4-2.

With the win, LAFC are now in 2nd place of the Western Conference and only three points behind 1st place. The team also prolonged its undefeated streak to four games, which includes three W’s. In addition, this was the first road win for LAFC in 3 months. The club now gets awell-deserved and much-needed one-week rest due to the international FIFA break, which players can use to recharge after an arduous month of August. With seven games remaining in the regular season, four of them will be at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC returns to action on September 15th when they host New England Revolution in search of continuing to push for that playoff berth.

-Benjamin Virgen

September 5, 2018

Follow me on Twitter @lafcbenjamin to talk soccer, ask questions or send comments. Thank you for reading and Stay Golden!

Jerry JimenezComment