The Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) was tasked with playing two games this week, a situation in which both players and coaches must exercise extreme caution and discretion regarding recovery time and rest.
The first game against Minnesota United on Wednesday, saw two of the three newest clubs in the league battle it out for bragging rights. LAFC won the match 2-0.
Within the first few moments of the game both sides nearly conceded quick goals with Diego Rossi hitting the side post and then minutes later Darwin Quintero of Minnesota missing the mark on the other end, almost one-upping LAFC early on.
LAFC star Carlos Vela continued to be the focal point in the opposing team’s strategy as he was fouled on multiple occasions, being the reason for more than one yellow card granted to Minnesota.
Vela, Rossi and Blessing, LAFC’s attacking trio, gave Minnesota a multitude of problems and were quick on the ball, maintaining fluid movement in the midfield. However, Rossi’s first touch failed him on a few opportunities that would have given him clear shots on goal.
In the 24th minute, LAFC’s Eduard Atuesta suffered a head injury scare, which delayed the game for several minutes as the team doctors and trainers tended to him. Luckily, the severity of the injury was minimal and the game resumed normally.
Just minutes after the delay, Atuesta scored LA’s first goal, receiving the ball in the box, and utilizing beautiful footwork to get some space between himself and Minnesota defenders to slip the ball past the keeper into the side netting.
Clearly frustrated by the goal and their inability to maintain good spells of possession, Minnesota United received two yellow card penalties in quick succession for hard fouls on LAFC players, in attempts to break up the play between LAFC’s midfield and offense, who remained composed on the ball and continued to effectively connect passes.
Before the half, Carlos Vela received the ball in the box and rocketed a shot towards goal that was deflected high into the air. Latif Blessing, the shortest player on the pitch at 5’5’’ leapt over Minnesota’s defending centre-back and flicked the ball in the path of Mark-Anthony Kaye who finished off the goal in spectacular fashion.
“Yeah Latif did well, he can jump, man– that guy,” laughed Mark-Anthony Kaye to a chuckling room. I think the centre-back underestimated him and I knew he was capable of flicking it on so sometimes you just got to be in the right spot and thank God I was–.”
The second half saw the majority of chances go to LAFC. The goal-scorer, Atuesta tested the keeper with two shots on target that deflected from the keeper to keep Minnesota from an embarrassing rout. In the end, LAFC’s potent attack was too much for Minnesota to handle, who were on kept at bay the entire match.
Their second match of the week pitted LAFC against the then first place in the East, New York City F.C. The game was highly volatile on both ends of the field as the teams appeared to be evenly matched in just about every facet of play, including desire to win. And ultimately the game ended in a 1 -1 tie.
NYFC scored the first goal of the contest in the 12th minute of play, which came after they were granted a penalty due to the officials utilizing the newly implemented video review process of a play that saw a handball in the box on LAFC’s Atuesta. The review revealed a ball that inadvertently hit his hand from a NYCFC volley off a David Villa corner kick. The penalty was saved initially by LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller, but was deflected right back into the path of the kicker, David Villa, who would not make the same mistake twice, as he converted the penalty with his head.
In the 23rd minute, LAFC tied the score off a Carlos Vela corner kick, in which Walker Zimmerman headed the ball towards goal and saw it deflect off NYCFC defender Sebastien Ibeagha’s leg into the bottom corner of the goal.
Neither team was able to break the deadlock for the remainder of the second half and both teams went into half-time tied.
In the 66th minute the ball entered NYCFC’s box causing a scramble, but the ball inevitably found the feet of Carlos Vela who calmly and passed the ball past the keeper, putting LAFC ahead 2-1. LAFC continued to turn on the heat late, putting immense pressure on New York City’s defense. However, it was all four naught. NYCFC refused to surrender, and in the 74th minute, found open space on the right side of LAFC’s final third when a deflected shot nearly squeaked over the head of Tyler Miller eliciting a last-minute punch away that made its way to NYCFC’s Ismael Tajouri, who finished the ball, hitting the crossbar and in past the keeper.
With the game now tied, NYCFC began putting the pressure on late, especially down the right wing forcing LAFC keeper Tyler Miller to make yet another save, this time with his face, becoming without a doubt the save of the game.
LAFC would see one more attempt on goal in the 90th minute when Carlos Vela laced a shot towards NYCFC’s goal causing the ball to be finger-tipped over the bar by the keeper.
Neither team could flesh out the win in the end and both had to settle for a point each instead of all three. LAFC now stands in second place in the West while NYCFC now sits third in the East.