If there is one thing LAFC knows, it is late-game dramatics. Their first game of the 2019, which also served as their 2019 home opener, was no exception.
This past Sunday, Los Angeles Football Club took on Sporting Kansas City, in what could be considered a grudge match of sorts as Sporting KC got the better of LAFC last August in a 2-0 loss, as well as a 2-1 defeat in late October towards the end of the inaugural season last year.
In short, the game was an absolute bloodbath by many standards, albeit an entertaining one at that. The match saw nine disciplinary cards shown in total by the ref: Eight yellow cards (a whopping five given to Sporting KC) and a red card given to Sporting’s Roger Espinoza.
The match started out in incendiary fashion, with both teams registering attempts on goal within the first few minutes of the game.
Sporting Kansas City seemed particularly keen on getting a goal early on in the match, as LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller had his reflexes tested several times within the first 10 minutes of the match, but LAFC stayed vigilant in their possession.
Then, in the 15thminute, LAFC’s Diego Rossi picked up the ball in the midfield and attempted to make a lateral pass to teammate Lee Nguyen, however referee Robert Sibiga serendipitously deflected the pass to Sporting KC, giving them possession close to LAFC’s 18-yard box. The ball eventually found Sporting’s Krisztián Németh for an easy finish to put the away’ers up 1-0.
This only seemed to fuel LAFC’s fire going forward.
In the 22ndminute, LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta chipped a beautiful ball into Sporting KC’s box, finding Carlos Vela, who shifted the ball onto his stronger left foot getting a shot away with the ball awkwardly hitting a Kansas City defender.
LAFC players appealed for a handball immediately, with referee Robert Sibiga finally deciding to go to video review for a closer look. After the second look and some deliberation, he found no grounds to overturn his initial ruling, to the dismay of the LAFC faithful for losing out on a potential penalty decision.
The game stayed at a furious cat and mouse pace until halftime.
It took less than two minutes into the second half for LAFC to find their first goal of the 2019 season. In the 47thminute of play, LAFC forward Diego Rossi received a floating ball on the left side of Sporting’s 18-yard box, swiftly cutting inside, beating his defender and curling a beautiful ball into the far post past the keeper to put the Black and Gold even at one apiece.
Though the entirety of the game had been contentious, with yellow cards being handed out left and right, the pinnacle moment of disciplinary action occurred in the 84thminute when Sporting Kansas City’s Roger Espinoza, who had been previously booked, was sent off with a red card for a hard challenge into the back leg of LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.
Now, with a one man advantage, LAFC smelled blood, which came to full realization in stoppage time in the 90+4thminute when an aerial ball found LAFC’s Jordan Harvey, whose heavy first touch fell into the path of his forward Adama Diaomande and with a beautiful turn away from his defenders, blasted the ball clinically past Sporting’s goalkeeper Tim Melia for the clutch game-winning goal.
LAFC left it late for two years in a row, but their emphatic game finish was merely the cherry on top for a gritty, well-executed performance. Though not a perfect night by any stretch, including a touch-heavy Mark-Anthony Kaye trying to regain his amazing pre-injury form from last year, he and the team as a whole showed the spark and notes of brilliance that the team is known for, a sign of things to come in 2019.