LAFC Defend The Banc vs Montreal Impact
Another one bites the dust.
The final score made it seem much closer than it really was but LAFC took care of business at home with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Impact at Banc of California Stadium. Goals from Christian Ramirez, Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing and Tristan Blackmon helped the Black & Gold obtain their 10th win of the season while at the same time remained undefeated at the Banc. With this result, LAFC extended their unbeaten streak to seven games and consolidated their spot at the top of the Western Conference along with having the #1 ranked offense and defense in the league. In what was an excellent display of team chemistry in the first half, LAFC dropped off in the second half by becoming complacent. Although the Black & Gold was unable to get the clean sheet, the three points are what matter the most.
Due to a hamstring injury, Steven Beitashour was forced to miss this game as Tristan Blackmon made his 2nd start of the season to cover for him at the right-back position. However, Eduard Atuesta was able to return to the starting lineup after being absent in last week’s match in Dallas because of a knee injury. As for Montreal, defensive midfielder Samuel Piette was suspended for this game and LAFC took advantage as they played through the middle for the majority of the match. The good news for the Canadian side was that Ignacio Piatti was able to make his first start for the team since Week 3 but did not have much of an impact (no pun intended) on the game thanks to the solid defending from Blackmon on the right side.
From the opening whistle, it was apparent that Montreal would allow LAFC to have possession of the ball as they would rely on the quick counter-attack. Like I had mentioned in my preview to this match, one of the keys to the game was to score early and for the benefit of Mr. Ramirez, that is exactly what happened in the 7th minute. Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush was played a pass back to his feet as Ramirez applied great pressure and forced the goalie to bounce the ball of Ramirez for the opening goal. It was his 3rd goal of the season and it allowed LAFC to play more relaxed, with no pressure and to make better decisions on the ball.
The Midfield Trio
After a couple of counter-attack scares from Montreal, LAFC was able to play their game with the midfield trio of Atuesta, Kaye and Blessing performing at a very high level. After his goal, Ramirez had a couple more opportunities to increase his tally after great buildup football from Atuesta and Blessing, who was able to display his full potential in the middle of the field after Blackmon was inserted at right back. Unfortunately for Ramirez, both of his shots were saved by Bush as they lacked accuracy. The chances would keep arising and the Black & Gold would finally capitalize through their captain.
In the 27th minute, LAFC connected 11 passes between them before the ball got to Carlos Vela, who scored his league-leading 15th goal of the season in as many games. It was almost as if the Black & Gold hypnotized the opponent with slow-tempo passing and all of a sudden, a killer through ball from Atuesta makes the difference. It was the 4th time this year where Vela scored after a pass from the Colombian, who collected his 6th assist of 2019. Just three minutes later, Blackmon anticipated a pass from Montreal and his interception turned into a pass to Vela, who then played it wide to Rossi. The Uruguayan dribbled into the box and crossed to the incoming run of Blessing as he finished past Bush for his 1st goal and Rossi’s 3rd assist of the season. It was 3-0 in the first 30 minutes all in part because of LAFC scored early. Goals allow you to control the game better, to play without pressure and to not have to deal with the frustration or desperation of getting that opening goal. In what should’ve been a 6-0 score line at the half, a three goal lead while playing good football was enough to please Bob Bradley, at least temporarily.
2nd Half Meltdown
For the 2nd half, LAFC picked up right where they left off by dominating possession of the ball and creating several scoring chances. In the 54th minute, Ramirez hit a sweet strike with his right foot but it was saved by Bush for a corner kick. That very same corner kick was executed perfectly when Vela crossed a beautiful ball to the head of Blackmon, who scored the first goal of his professional career as Vela tallied his 9th assist of the season. Just when things seemed to be on cruise control with a 4-0 score line, LAFC lost their way in the game with imprecision, overconfidence and lack of sharpness.
Adama Diomande made his usual 30-minute cameo appearance when he subbed on for Ramirez in the 64th minute. The American striker played one of his best games of the season as he was very involved in attack, good work rate defensively and all of his shots were on target. Diomande seemed to be lacking in confidence as he lost the ball in his first three touches and was never able to get himself in the game.
With 20 minutes remaining in the match, LAFC appeared to be on their way to a 7th clean sheet but overconfidence denied them the opportunity to do so. Tyler Miller and his defenders had several chances to clear the ball from their own box but decided to try and play out of the back. They were punished for it. Montreal’s forward Maximiliano Urruti dribbled into the box after a failed clearance from LAFC and his cross deflected off Miller’s gloves into the knee of Eddie Segura. Lady luck was on the Impact’s side for this particular play as the ball slowly rolled into the net and Segura was charged with the own goal.
Improved Finishing But Could Be Better
Bob Bradley attempted to regain a little more offensive presence with the inclusion of Andre Horta for Eduard Atuesta in the midfield but to no avail. Horta showed flashes here and there of his quality but has yet to make a true impact in any game he has played with LAFC. In the 84th minute, Walker Zimmerman was beat on the counter and was forced to commit a foul in the box for a penalty kick. Zimmerman was issued a yellow card and Montreal converted from the spot though midfielder Saphir Taider. Diego Rossi would have one more clear chance to score in the 87th minute after a great pass from Dio but his shot went just wide. The accuracy and efficiency in LAFC was better than in recent games but still needs improvement as they should have put this match to bed in the first half.
Overall, it was a good win for LAFC because they get the three points at home and keep their undefeated streak at the Banc alive. The one thing the team needs to work on is not getting complacent and overconfident with big leads. The finishing improved but it can still be better. At the end of the day, the Black & Gold are in 1st place of the West with one game remaining before the Gold Cup break and will look to finish the first half of the season with a win in Portland next week.
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