On Saturday June 23rd, after a brief international break for the start of the World Cup, LAFC were back in action against a strong Columbus Crew FC. It was also the return of Gyasi Zardes to LA, a native of Hawthorne who was traded to the Columbus Crew from the LA Galaxy last year.
The big questions before the match centered around the LAFC’s missing players however, who were (at the time this article was written) still out on international duty with their respective countries’ World Cup teams.
Marco Ureña (Costa Rica) and Omar Gaber (Egypt) will most likely be returning home within the next week or so since neither Egypt nor Costa Rica have advanced to the knockout rounds in Russia. However, LAFC’s most important player, Carlos Vela (Mexico) will be extending his stay in the tournament, at least for now, due to Vela’s goal for Mexico that LAFC management shared with the Banc of California Stadium crowd on the giant screen during halftime. Mexico’s team is still alive, but are situated in the most competitive group in the tournament with Germany and South Korea still able to advance as well.
Even with some of the missing stalwarts of the team, LAFC came out to play from the blow of the referee’s whistle. In just the 4th minute of play, LAFC midfielder won a free kick about 30 yards out from the goal. LAFC defender and captain Laurent Ciman stepped up to take the kick and with beautiful technique and precision, converted the free kick into a 1-0 lead over Columbus.
LAFC were relentless with their attack, because just four minutes later, they did it again. LAFC were passing the ball with ease in a triangle formation at the top of the box, when LAFC forward Latif Blessing passed the ball to midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who then coolly relayed it to LAFC playmaker Lee Nguyen. Nguyen saw space open space for Norwegian International and LAFC newcomer Adama Diomandé who collected the ball in the box from a beautiful through ball and from six yards out calmly passed the ball into the net beyond the reach of Columbus’ keeper, making the score 2-0 LAFC.
Now with one more goal added to their cushion, LAFC kept their foot on the gas, with unrelenting pressure against the Crew. A mere four minutes after the second goal, LAFC won a free kick about 40 yards away. Lee Nguyen curled a beautiful ball into the box which eventually found its way to Diomandé’s head, but he glanced the ball just wide and out of worry for Columbus.
The game opened up in the second half, and Columbus, dissatisfied with their performance thus far, began to turn up the heat. In the 26th minute, Columbus’ attack was able to weave through the LAFC defense. To the relief of LAFC, the final product went straight to LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller and the score remained 2-0 after some back and forth play at halftime.
LAFC’s attack quieted down substantially for the first part of the second half, with LAFC forward Diomandé noticeably aggravated by a knock he picked up at the end of the first half and became less potent during the attack going forward. As the second half progressed, the LAFC attack began to find its form again.
LAFC was able to maintain possession so well, the defense began to join in the attack. In the 66th and 67th minute, LAFC leftback Steven Beitashour made great runs into the box adding to an already productive attack for LAFC. Though not able to secure any more goals, LAFC’s dominance of the game and its 2-0 victory was a great accomplishment against a strong team, especially given the absence of key players.