LAFC Defend The Banc With 4-0 Win Over San Jose
“We play our football. Teams have to try to stop us. We play our football every game but the biggest part of getting ready every week is taking our football ideas and just continuing to try and make them better.”
Bob Bradley gets it. LAFC’s experienced head coach knows what he has in this group of guys is special. Last night’s performance was just another great example of how each player understands Bob’s football ideas and translates it flawlessly onto the pitch. Regardless of who is in the starting XI, the Black & Gold remain loyal to their style of play and there is no drop off when players like Blackmon, Nguyen or Perez get called upon. To the credit of Bradley’s “always room for improvement” philosophy, LAFC continue to get better every week.
Different Names, Same Identity
No Zimmerman, Kaye and Diomande? No problem. With a physically demanding schedule coming into this match and Sunday’s meeting with Carson in the horizon, Bob was able to make a couple of “rotations” vs San Jose. You barely noticed it as LAFC shook off the Earthquakes with a 4-0 victory at Banc of California Stadium in the first of a three-game home stand for the Black & Gold. With this result, LAFC improved their home record to 11-0-1 and remain undefeated in league play at the Banc. In addition, LAFC have now won 8 of their last 9 games and carry a 5-match winning streak into the derby on Sunday. Tyler Miller was able to get his 9th clean sheet of the season and his third in the last four games. As for San Jose, they suffered their third consecutive loss and could be in danger of missing the playoffs if this streak prolongs itself. The score reflects domination from LAFC but San Jose had their chances in this one where one lucky break could have changed the game completely.
Something about scoring early goals fares well for LAFC. It builds confidence and forces the opponent to become more aggressive going forward, leaving space behind them. Diego Rossi’s goal in the 5th minute was the sixth time this season where the Black & Gold scored within the first 15 minutes of play and consequently ended up with 4+ goals by the end of the game. These early goals have allowed for control of the match as well as the opponents scrambling for quick answers. It was the vision of Eduard Atuesta that found the diagonal run of Josh Perez, whose shot was blocked by the goalkeeper. However, Rossi never gave up on the play and the rebound fell to his feet as he finished for his 14th goal of the season.
Just ten minutes later, LAFC would steal a page out of San Jose’s book. Lee Nguyen’s excellent situational awareness to receive the ball inside the box caught the Earthquakes sleeping on a corner kick as the Black & Gold were rewarded with a penalty kick after Nguyen’s shot was blocked by a hand ball from Anibal Godoy. Club captain Carlos Vela stepped up to score his 25th goal of the season as he capitalized on San Jose’s defensive mental breakdown.
There was no shortage of scoring opportunities for the Earthquakes following Vela’s penalty kick goal with Danny Hoesen at the end of them. Unfortunately for them, Miller’s interventions, a shot to the post and (another) last-stitch slide tackle from Jordan Harvey prevented San Jose from getting on the board. LAFC remained composed and continued to play their possession-based style of football with great buildup play through the middle. The understanding of spacing, good movement and timing between attackers was displayed to perfection in the 41st minute, when the greatest goal in the history of Banc of California Stadium was scored.
Josh Perez was in the middle of the pitch when he played a short pass to Vela, who dummied it to Rossi while already moving away from his defender. Vela’s multi-tasking ability made Rossi’s decision that much easier as the Uruguayan returned the pass with one touch. With three “obstacles” to beat, Vela dribbled past the Earthquake defenders and goalkeeper as if they weren’t there and finished for his 26th goal of the season. I immediately stood up from my seat, looked around and saw a reflection of myself in everyone: jaws dropped, hands to the head and skin hairs popping up. The goosebumps were real and the 3252 got louder than ever. It was a special moment in the Banc’s short history that will surely go down as one of the best in the venue.
The Damage Is Done
In the second half, San Jose continued to push for a goal that would get them back in the game but the lead that LAFC had built was too high of a mountain to climb for the Earthquakes. Tyler Miller’s shot-blocking ability along with good defending from the Black & old neutralized San Jose’s attacks. Not only did the score line allow for regular starters Jordan Harvey, Latif Blessing and Diego Rossi to get a rest early in the match, it also allowed LAFC fans to see Mohamed El-Munir return to the pitch for the first time in over a month due to injury as the Liberian entered the field to a roaring ovation from the crowd. The Earthquakes would also make substitutions of their own in bringing in MLS’s all-time leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski and new signing Carlos Fierro but neither had much of a positive impact on the game.
A player who did have a positive impact on his team was Mark-Anthony Kaye, who came on midway through the half. His dribbling ability and excellent decision making almost got him on the score sheet but his shot was blocked by Daniel Vega. However, Kaye led a counter attack starting in the center of the pitch and waited for the correct moment to play Perez out wide with a defender to beat. Once juking his marker, Perez rifled a right-footed shot past Vega for his first goal for the club to the joy of his teammates and coaches. It was a special moment for the 21 year-old local kid from Montebello and was deservingly so given the Man of the Match award by the 3252 for a stellar performance.
LAFC are just better this year as they have already accumulated more points and goals than last season and there are still eight games remaining! One of those games means more than all the others and will be played on Sunday evening at the Banc. Just when we thought that the match vs San Jose would be much closer, LAFC devoured them like an appetizer. The main course will be served on Sunday in the derby and hopefully the Black & Gold are hungry enough to come out on top and finally get that desired victory over Carson.