On Sunday night in Los Angeles, LAFC and the Philadelphia Union played a match that created fireworks, had multiple score lines, and caught the attention of MLS fans across the nation. If you were to look at a definition of a back and forth soccer game, the score line from this game would be right next to it, as LAFC and Philadelphia played to a 3-3 draw.
A Thrilling Battle
Describing the draw, Bob Bradley in his postgame press conference stated:
“Fast game, a lot of transition, we created a lot of chances but in moments when we needed to be more precise and find smart ways to slow the game down, we weren’t good enough in those ways and then it’s never good to give up three goals, some crazy goals.”
The game on Sunday night was intense. Three times LAFC went down to the Union, but each time they fought their way back to bring the game level. Sergio Santos of the Union broke the deadlock with an open play goal from the top corner of the box. Santos and Kacper Przybylko were left up top for the Union, going against Dejan Jakovic and Eddie Segura, respectively.
While both LAFC centerbacks did a good job at stopping a majority of the pressure, Santos was still able to get free to score his first goal of the season.
Union coach Jim Curtin described the Union’s tactical setup vs. LAFC:
“Tonight, we had a situation where we knew LAFC with the high press they have, they do leave their two center backs 1v1 with our strikers so we left two high up.”
It worked out for Philadelphia as they were able to counterattack when LAFC lost the ball in the midfield.
“I thought it was successful for the majority of the game. Obviously, you know LAFC is going to create chances but overall we bent but didn’t break,” said Curtin.
The ‘Vela’ Effect
LAFC though would not back down playing from behind. In what would end up being the longest spell of being down a goal, just over nine minutes, Carlos Vela was able to step over a free kick. If he scored, not only would it be his 50th goal in his short MLS career, but he would also hold the record for most goals scored in consecutive home matches. Spoiler alert: he placed the ball over the wall and into the back of the net, marking his 50th goal in the league and becoming the third quickest player to 50 goals in MLS history.
The first half needed time to warm up before the chances and goals started to come, but the second needed no such time. Jakob Glesnes of the Union, a young Norwegian, took a free kick from about 40 yards from goal and blasted the ball into the back of the net. There was a stunned silence around the Banc of California Stadium for a second as no one could really believe that goal was scored. However, the Black & Gold of Los Angeles picked up their heads, found Diego Rossi, who scored a curler from the top left corner of the box into the top right corner of the net. LAFC was down for only 64 seconds.
“I think we’re finding out that we can push a little bit harder and obviously, when games don’t go our way, we know we have the resilience to keep going and get that next goal. We’re very confident in our abilities and sometimes you let in goals in football and you’ve got to be able to bounce back,” explained Mark-Anthony Kaye in his postgame press conference.
LAFC would have to come from behind one more time though, as the Union were able to score after a poor defensive play in the LAFC penalty box, allowing Brenden Aaronson to score and place the Union on top once again.
“I don’t even know what happened to be honest. I got the ball, I was just looking to play for it, I got lucky,” said Aaronson.
Within 94 seconds of the Union scoring, Segura found himself with the ball at the penalty spot after the Philadelphia goalkeeper, Andre Blake, played a poor corner kick. Segura blasted a shot that deflected off Blake, and once again, placed both clubs level. There was still 20 minutes to play, and LAFC could smell blood in the water. LAFC had the majority of chances for the game, but none of those chances could find the back of the net.
The best chance came with Brian Rodriguez at 90’+6, who had a one-on-one chance against Blake after a great ball from Eduard Atuesta, but was denied his first goal of the season. Bradley expanded on this as well:
“He’s frustrated so you encourage him and keep making sure he understands that by doing the little things right, getting in the right spots, that it’s going to happen for him. But, we all felt bad because right now it feels like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and he can’t
make a play that matters.”
It’s understandable that Bradley would show support for Rodriguez right now, as the Designated Player for LAFC has little to show for since he has come to the City of Angels. In his nine games with LAFC, he has zero goals and zero assists, with only a 2.0 xGoal value. While fans are likely willing to give him some slack, it won’t last for long.
Now LAFC have to pick themselves up to get ready for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Cruz Azul Thursday night at home.
Kaye commented about the quick turnaround from Sunday’s match to Thursday’s crucial Champions League fixture: “It’s not the first time we’re going to play two games in four or five days so it’ll be okay. Obviously it’s more important now to make sure the recovery is good and everyone’s doing the right things to make sure their bodies are set for Thursday.”
LAFC is ready, knowing full well that they are in the toughest side of the bracket, but also understanding that they need to play well against the team that is on top of Liga MX.
“From the beginning, we’ve talked about wanting to do well and testing ourselves against good teams,” said Bradly. “Cruz Azul has an amazing history and I’m looking forward to it.”