LAFC Capitalize In Washington D.C.
By: Benjamin Virgen (4/6/2019)
The statement was made in extraordinary fashion.
In a bout where the main event highlighted international heavyweights Carlos Vela and Wayne Rooney, a 21-year old stole the show. LAFC traveled across the country for the second time this year to face DC United in a match between the top two teams in the standings. Led by a Diego Rossi hat trick, LAFC ended DCU’s unbeaten streak this season with an impressive 4-0 victory at Audi Field. With this result, the Black & Gold remain top of the Western Conference through Week 6 of the MLS season and have yet to lose a game. On the other hand, the Black-and-Red dropped to 3rd place of the Eastern Conference after coming in as the leaders in the East. Not only did D.C. concede at home for the first time in 2019, they allowed more goals in this game than they have all season. LAFC’s offense continued to run on all cylinders as they have scored at least twice in each game this year.
D.C. Stands For “Defense Collapse”
The reality of DC United’s so called “clean sheet machine” was exposed in this game. I never bought into a backline consisting of defenders that were not being tested week in and week out thanks to the high pressure of their attackers and goalkeeping heroics. Although DC’s forwards were very good at pressuring LAFC in their own half, therefore causing the Black and Gold to lose possession many times, they were not able to capitalize in the final third of the field. In a match where they were finally challenged, the weaknesses of the defense were apparent. For starters, DCU was missing their feature left back Joseph Moreno due to injury and Vela made a meal of veteran Chris McCann every time he got the chance. McCann was outpaced and caught out of position in crucial moments of the game, especially in the second goal of the match. Set pieces were a topic of concern against a team like DC United, especially when someone like Wayne Rooney is behind the ball. LAFC committed several fouls outside of the box that created danger but fortunately none of them ended up in a goal.
Early in the game, DCU defender Leonardo Jarawas called for a hand ball after a cross from Jordan Harvey, who continued to show his great form this season. Carlos Vela took the penalty kick and proved he was human after his shot was denied by goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Vela got a second and third attempt off the rebound but those were also blocked. However, the captain redeemed himself within five minutes and scored the opening goal of the match after a great effort from Adama Diomande. In what turned out to be the story of the game, DC United was stripped of the ball in the midfield as a result of LAFC’s pressure. In this case, Diomande took advantage of miscommunication between DC players by stealing the ball and dishing it to Vela, who finished with a signature curler past Hamid. Unfortunately for Dio, that was his last contribution to the game as he was forced to exit due to a hamstring injury just a few minutes later and was replaced by Christian Ramirez.
Right in the middle of Dio’s substitution, LAFC recovered the ball in their own half and started an explosive counter attack with only 10 men on the field. Mark-Antony Kaye dribbled the ball and with a change of pace, played the ball to Latif Blessing, who immediately found Diego Rossi at midfield. With McCann out position, Vela received the ball from Rossi with plenty of space on the right side and with the outside of his left foot located the Uruguayan’s run for the second goal of the game. Just five minutes later, the story of the first goal would repeat itself with Kaye being directly involved yet again. The Canadian international intercepted a pass in DC United’s half and dished the ball to a wide-open Rossi who curled it first time to the far post for his second goal of the game. It was one thing to be up 3-0 at the half against the last place team in San Jose, but to go into Audi Field against the top team in the East and replicate it? The statement was coming into fruition.
Team Effort, Team Win
Being down by the three goals with only 45 minutes to work out a comeback, frustration may start to get the best of you. That is exactly what happened to captain Wayne Rooney after a horrific tackle on Diego Rossi in the 49th minute left his team with 10 men for the remainder of the game. Rooney wasn’t making much of an impact in the match to begin with but his ejection did not help DCU’s chances of a comeback. However, the loss of their star player somehow injected the team with a boost of energy with three clear scoring chances over the next 20 minutes. In the 52nd minute, DC United’s Luciano Rodriguez had a long distance volley inside the box that would’ve put the game 3-1 but it just went over the bar. Later in the match, Tyler Miller failed to secure two crosses with his hands that resulted in goal-saving clearances from Steven Beitashour in what would potentially have been a tied game at that point if it weren’t for lady luck. It was the first time this season that I have seen Miller make a mistake but fortunately for him, he was able to get his second shutout of 2019. After surviving that mini-surge from DC, the Black & Gold regained control of the game.
We have all been praising Eduard Atuesta for his exceptional performances to start the season but scoring that free kick that hit the cross bar in the 66th minute would have been the cherry on top. The Colombian put in another excellent shift in the defensive midfielder role with excellent defending and intelligent passing. Speaking of Colombia, Eddie Segura had the best game of his LAFC career in my opinion. The defender’s coverage, reading of the game and classy tackles has made him one of my favorite players on the team. The partnership Zimmerman and Segura have built in such a short period of time has turned into one of the best in MLS.
With 15 minutes remaining in the game, LAFC kept pressuring DC United in their own half and were rewarded. Vela made a sliding tackle to poke the ball away from DCU’s midfielder Junior Moreno, who in result lost the ball just outside his own box. The ball fell to Blessing who laid it off to Ramirez at the top of the box with Rossi wide open to his left. The American international found Rossi inside the box and the latter completed his first MLS hat trick to seal the game along with his 6th goal of the season. 4-0 LAFC and game over.
It was not a perfect game by any means but LAFC were able to take advantage of DC United’s mistakes in their own half. However, it has to be said that those errors were no accident as they were forced by the high-intensity pressure and hard work of our boys in the Black & Gold. Mohamed El-Munir got his first minutes at left-back with LAFC in what was a good debut for the Libyan after replacing Harvey. Adrien Perez also made his third appearance for the club after coming on for Vela in the 80thminute. Diego Rossi may have scored the goals and earned the spotlight, but this was a total team effort where LAFC continue to display their dominance in conjunction.
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