Cinco A Cero: LAFC Remains Undefeated
By: Benjamin Virgen (3/30/19)
Sometimes you just can’t escape your reality.
Today at Avaya Stadium, LAFC continued their good form and got their first win on the road of the 2019 season at the expense of the San Jose Earthquakes. Club captain Carlos Vela delivered another MVP-esque performance with his first hat-trick for the Black & Gold while adding an assist. Former San Jose player Steven Beitashour scored his first goal of the season after a beautiful pass from Eduard Atuesta and Diego Rossi completed the 5-0 route with a cool finish to tally his third goal of the year. With this result, LAFC consolidated their place at the top of the Western Conference while the Earthquakes remain winless with four losses in as many games. In a match where Los Angeles Football Club expected higher resistance from the opponent, any game plan that Matias Almeyda may have had to compete with LAFC went down the drain early.
Before I get into the actual game, the 3252 deserve recognition. The number of traveling supporters was not confirmed but various reports mentioned 800-1,000 LAFC fans made the trip up to northern California for this match. While I was sitting in the press box, the Black & Gold faithful were right across from me jumping and singing all game long. There were moments, especially when the “JUMP FOR LA FOOTBALL CLUB” was in full effect, that my desk was swaying side to side and the roof of Avaya Stadium was actually shaking! Who would’ve thought that LAFC would bring the “earthquake” to San Jose (pun intended).
Let’s get into the game. Just how I noted in my preview, the first ten minutes of the match were very important in dictating the outcome of the remainder of the game. Unfortunately for San Jose, a trend of defensive mistakes and distractions continued and contributed to an early lead for LAFC. Mark-Anthony Kaye picked out Vela’s run with a 40-yard long ball that appeared to be out of reach for the Mexican forward, especially with Earthquakes goalkeeper Daniel Vega coming out of his box to intercept the pass. Whether the wet pitch helped the ball skip past his feet, Vega whiffed it in an inexcusable action for a professional goalie as he watched Vela walk it in for the opening goal. San Jose never recovered from that mental breakdown and it allowed LAFC to control the tempo of the game with less possession of the ball. Twenty minutes later, the Earthquakes continued to shoot themselves in the foot. LAFC had a throw in on right side of the field with no true danger when Rossi received the ball and played it back to Kaye. The Canadian then one-touched it to Atuesta, a pass that eliminated three San Jose players out of contention for the ball. Earthquakes defender Shea Salinas noticed Beitashour making a run towards the goal but was too slow to react as Atuesta played a perfect through ball for the Beita to score against his boyhood team. The competitiveness and pressure San José displayed in previous weeks were nowhere to be found vs LAFC.
Just moments before the end of the first half, LAFC scored one of my favorite goals of the season so far because of the intention in the passing, the directness and the speed they executed it in. The ball went from Tyler Miller to Carlos Vela within 10 seconds with pit stops at Jordan Harvey and Adama Diomande. It was an unusual “counter attack” effectively created that resulted in a rare sighting of a Bob Bradley celebration. 3-0 at the break in a lob-sided match that only got worse for the home team.
In an attempt to give the attack an extra boost, SJ head coach Matias Almeyda made two substitutions at halftime when forward Danny Hoesen and midfielder Jackson Yueill entered the match for Vako and Judson. The Earthquakes showed signs of life when they had their first shot on goal in the 47th minute, calling on Miller to make his first save of the match. Twenty minutes later, the dagger.
In the 65th minute, San Jose allowed Vela to receive the ball on his favorite left foot just outside the box. Instead of closing down on the Mexican international, a couple of players backed off and Vela punished them with one of his best goals he has ever scored for LAFC. The ball made curved to the far post up into the corner for his hat trick as I got out of my chair and put my hands on my head in amazement. If things weren’t embarrassing already, the San Jose defense was caught out position and Diego Rossi snuck in a fifth goal after a pass from Vela to finish the job. With the game decided, Bradley went to his bench and gave a couple of his young talented players some minutes on the field. Niko Hämäläinen went in for Harvey in a straight swap at left back and Peter-Lee Vassell came on for Kaye in the midfield. Christian Ramirez had come on earlier for Diomande, who did not have a great game but worked his butt off.
San Jose did have a couple of scoring chances towards the end of the match through Hoesen but Miller was ready and got his first shutout of the season. LAFC were successful in accomplishing the keys to the match that I mentioned in my preview. The Black & Gold were able to take advantage of the Earthquake’s defensive mistakes and distractions as well as break down Almeyda’s man-to-man marking system with great movement. LAFC were able to continue their unbeaten run this season against the worst team in the league as it is important for the club to start winning games they are supposed to win. D.C United waits next weekend in what is set to be a match between the top two teams in the league in the nation’s capital with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Vela as the stars. Look for my preview later in the week.
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