Cristian Arango scores twice, LAFC beats Real Salt Lake

Entering the last third of the season, the Los Angeles Football Club needs points any way they can find them.

Sunday night at Banc of California Stadium during the last Major League Soccer clash of the weekend LAFC did exactly that, holding onto a 3-2 lead they were gifted to nail down a crucial Western Conference showdown against Real Salt Lake.

Two goals from Cristian Arango plus an own-goal lifted LAFC (8-9-6, 30 points) into dead heat with RSL for the last MLS Cup postseason spot.

RSL (8-8-6, 30 points) continues to sit in the seventh position due to a two goal advantage over LAFC via the goal differential tiebreaker.

“Tonight we have a great reward worthy of our great effort,” Arango said. “We suffer together and celebrate together.”

The fastest goal in LAFC history — the eighth quickest in MLS competition — delivered the Black & Gold an advantage 20 seconds after the opening whistle.

The sequence started near midfield when LAFC’s Colombian captain Eduard Atuesta picked up the ball and dribbled into RSL territory.

Atuesta picked out midfielder Bryce Duke running to his right, which opened a window to feed Danny Musovski in the box. Duke’s delivery, his second assist in as many matches, was redirected and fell to Arango, whose clean touch allowed him to beat RSL goalkeeper David Ochao.

The two sides tussled over the opening half hour until RSL’s Damir Kreilach again made an impact on the series.

The midfielder’s curling one-timer from outside the box leveled the score at one apiece and set in motion a frantic give and take — and give — 90 minutes.

“Wild game,” Bradley said. “Sometimes as you get into the latter part of the season and you’re playing these six point games they can become fast and furious. There’s mistakes on both sides.”

After Kreilach’s equalizer, LAFC wasted no time regaining the lead.

Arango, 26, secured his brace two minutes later when Atuesta lofted a chipped pass at his countryman’s head.

The redirected pass produced Arango’s fourth goal in LAFC’s last three contests.

“He wanted to be here and from the beginning you could tell he’s got a strong character and a great mentality,” Bradley said regarding the Colombian forward. “That part rubs off in a good way on everybody.

“He’s a guy you can count on. He plays for the team. He puts himself in really good positions in the box. He showed he can play an important role for us.”

RSL leveled the contest in the 48th minute when a rare miscue by Duke created a breakaway that gave forward Anderson Julio an opportunity to pick out the near post and beat Tomas Romero.

Then, as the hour mark approached, RSL gave away the game winner and a season sweep for LAFC.

After breaking up an attack in front of The 3252 supporters in the north end of the stadium, RSL defender Toni Datkovic did not hear Ochao try to wave him off as the ball trundled into the box.

Instead Datkovic gently nudged the ball back toward his goal, and Ochao could not reroute himself to make a save.

“There’s going to be some sort of crazy wild feeling aspect to games, especially for teams that are trying to get into the playoffs,” defender Sebastien Ibeagha said following his second consecutive start on the LAFC backline. “For us, we have quality, it’s about being composed and calm and letting our football shine.

“It’s a stepping stone. We’re trying to push this streak and go into the playoffs.”

After failing to score more than two times in any of its first 20 matches, LAFC has tallied three or more goals in its last three.

The club’s 10 goals during that stretch topped its total over seven contests between July 21 to Aug. 21, before a 3-3 tie to Galaxy preceded an end to the club’s historically bad eight-match winless streak that had dropped them as low as 11th in the conference standings.

Following with a pair of wins, LAFC, now in eighth position, heads on the road for matches in Austin, Portland and San Jose.

Away from home, LAFC is 2-7-1.

Only four of LAFC’s 11 remaining games take place at Banc of California Stadium, where it has accumulated 23 of its 30 points.

“We’re on an upward bound path where all we can do is continue to gain,” Arango said. “With all these goals we hope to accumulate more.”

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Whitecaps hand LAFC its 4th consecutive loss

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Ryan Gauld scored in the 89th minute and the Vancouver Whitecaps beat Los Angeles FC, 2-1, on Saturday night in their first game at B.C. Place in 539 days.

Brian White tied it in the 60th to help the Whitecaps (5-7-8, 23 points), who are led by former LAFC assistant Marc Dos Santos, tie a franchise record with their eight-game unbeaten streak.

Diego Rossi scored on a penalty shot in first-half stoppage time for LAFC (6-9-5, 23 points), which has lost four in a row and is mired in a seven-match winless rut.

The Whitecaps played their last home game in front of fans on Feb. 29, 2020 – a 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. They played the rest of their home games at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, until Saturday.

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Whitecaps beat Diego Rossi, LAFC

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Ryan Gauld scored in the 89th minute and Vancouver Whitecaps beat Los Angeles FC 2-1 on Saturday night in their first game at B.C. Place in 539 days.

Brian White tied it in the 60th to help the Whitecaps (5-7-8) tie the franchise record with an eight-game unbeaten streak.

Diego Rossi scored on a penalty for LAFC (6-9-5) in first-half stoppage time.

The Whitecaps played their last home game in front of fans on Feb. 29, 2020 — a 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. They played the rest of their home games at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, until Saturday.

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Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi score as LAFC beats Real Salt Lake

  • Los Angeles FC midfielder Bryce Duke (19) movs the ball past a Real Salt Lake defender during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC defender Moon-Hwan Kim (33) kicks the ball during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC defender Moon-Hwan Kim (33) brings the ball up the pitch during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC fans react during the second half on an MLS match between the Los Angeles FC and the Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) brings the ball up the pitch against Real Salt Lake midfielder Everton Luiz (25) during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa (1) makes a save during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10), center, is surrounded by teammates after scoring a goal against the Real Salt Lake during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC midfielder Jose Cifuentes (11) winds up for a kick against the Real Salt Lake during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Latif Blessing (7) headers the ball against Real Salt Lake forward Bobby Wood (7) during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Smoke machines turn on after Los Angeles FC scores against the Real Salt Lake during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC defender Marco Farfan (32) dribbles past Real Salt Lake forward Rubio Rubin (14) during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Real Salt Lake midfielder Pablo Ruiz (6) tempts to slide tackle Los Angeles FC forward Raheem Edwards (44) during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) brings the ball down the pitch against Real Salt Lake midfielder Pablo Ruiz (6) during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) kicks the the ball against the Real Salt Lake during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC defender Moon-Hwan Kim (33) brings the ball toward the goal against Real Salt Lake defender Marcelo Silva (30) during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) battles Real Salt Lake defender Marcelo Silva (30) during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa (1) makes a save from a penalty kick by Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (not pictured) during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC head coach Bob Bradley looks on during the second half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) headers the ball against Real Salt Lake defender Marcelo Silva (30) during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC midfielder Eduard Atuesta (20) looks to pass the ball against the Real Salt Lake defenders during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) kicks the ball in for a goal against Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa (1) during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi (9) brings the ball up the pitch against the Real Salt Lake during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Raheem Edwards (44) battles against Real Salt Lake defenders during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) kicks the ball toward the goal against the Real Salt Lake during the first half on an MLS match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

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The Los Angeles Football Club earned its third straight win, taking a 2-1 result over Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium.

Goals by Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela — the dynamic duo that have combined for 101 regular season goals since joining forces in 2018 — made sure that a dominant effort did not go to waste.

Featuring the same starting lineup that earned 2-0 win in Austin ten days ago, LAFC outshot RSL 29-3 as the Black & Gold flirted with multiple finishes throughout the match.

“We had to work hard for it and it’s a night where certainly we could have scored more goals,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley.

Rossi put LAFC in front when he sliced through the RSL back line off a give-and-go with Jose Cifuentes in the tenth minute.

The 23-year-old Uruguayan held the ball on his right foot and hit a shot into the far corner that skipped past RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa, who was under the gun from the opening whistle.

The finish marked the first time this season that the 2020 MLS Golden Boot recipient scored in consecutive matches.

With Rossi and Vela pushing the attack, LAFC launched repeated sorties that prompted three quality saves by Ochoa in the first five minutes, and eight total in the game.

Ochoa’s work provided RSL a chance to equalize in the 18th minute when a defended LAFC corner kick turned into a quick counter that dusted the Black & Gold’s defense.

RSL midfielder Everton Luiz faded the ball with the outside of his right foot and freed defender Aaron Herrera to take on LAFC goalie Tomas Romero, who had moved forward to close out the play. Herrera coolly finished his first goal in Major League Soccer to even the score.

LAFC’s attack remained relentless for the rest of the opening half. Outshot 11 to 1 through 45 minutes, including a volley off the crossbar by Vela and several dangerous sequences by darting winger Kim Moon-Hwan, RSL leaned on Ochoa, a 20-year-old native of Oxnard who started in 11 of RSL’s 12 matches this year, to keep it close.

With an hour gone, Ochao stuffed a penalty off of Vela’s gilded left foot. Diving low and to his left, Ochoa stopped the attempt, which was given following a hand ball in the box on the RSL goal scorer Herrera.

Wave after wave pushed forward for LAFC and in the 79th minute it paid off when Vela scored his second goal of 2021.

With RSL backed up, Vela crossed the ball to Moon on the right side. The South Korean defender, making his fifth straight start, lofted it back across to Vela, who by then had moved into the box. The Mexican forward chested the ball down and smashed a volley that the RSL goalkeeper, standing at the near post, couldn’t save.

“We haven’t had a home game in a while so us coming home and putting on a display for the fans is something we’re really happy with,” said Moon-Hwan, whose assist, his first for LAFC, gave the announced crowd of 22,490 what it was waiting for. “Vela did me a solid and put the ball in for me.”

Vela, the LAFC captain, nearly secured his second goal five minutes later when he hit the post on a sneaky attempt with the outside of his left foot, one of his eight shots on the night.

The victory was LAFC’s second over RSL (4-4-4, 16 points) this month, and pushed the Black & Gold to 21 points after 13 matches.

“The most important win is in the next one, that’s how it works,” Bradley said. “I thought we played really well tonight and it didn’t come easy. Sometimes you’ve got a game where even if you play well you have to fight to get a result at the end.

“You can sense things are taking hold with the way collectively they are pushing things everyday.”

LAFC travels to Portland on Wednesday before two matches at Banc of California Stadium close out the month of July.

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Cifuentes scores, LAFC beats Salt Lake for 1st road win

SANDY, Utah (AP) — José Cifuentes scored in the 69th minute and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 1-0 on Saturday night for its first road victory of the season.

Cifuentes finished Eddie Segura’s cross from just behind the penalty spot into the right corner. Carlos Vela played a heel flick to Segura to get him an opening on the right side of the area.

Three minutes later, Segura made the defensive play of the match for LAFC (4-4-3), clearing off the line a sure goal by Rubio Rubín.

Real Salt Lake (3-3-4) was shut out for the second time this season.

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MLS-leading Sounders beat Los Angeles FC

SEATTLE (AP) — Xavier Arreaga and Brad Smith scored second-half goals and the MLS-leading Seattle Sounders beat Los Angeles FC 2-0 on Sunday night.

Arreaga opened the scoring in the 57th minute, redirecting João Paulo’s corner with a header inside the right post. It was Arreaga’s first career goal with the Sounders (5-0-1).

Carlos Vela, the 2019 MLS MVP, made his second appearance of the season, entering as a substitute in the 70th minute and giving the LAFC (1-2-2) side a potential boost for a tying goal. But Smith made it 2-0 for Seattle three minutes later, heading home Alex Roldan’s cross.

Smith was off target on the best scoring opportunity of the first half, spraying a wide-open shot left of the goal from 12 yards out.

 

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LAFC defeats Houston to clinch MLS playoff berth

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Football Club is spending the final games of the regular season focused on fine-tuning its game for the upcoming MLS playoffs, but the club is not yet playing like the contender Coach Bob Bradley expects his team to be.

Thanks to a pair of first-half goals, LAFC (9-7-4, 31 points) held off the visiting Houston Dynamo for a 2-1 win on Wednesday night at Banc of California Stadium and clinched a postseason berth.

With the win, Bradley moves into third place in MLS history with 170 career wins, trailing Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid.

The win was the second in a row for LAFC and the fourth in its past six games, but Bradley felt it wasn’t the best performance.

“It’s always good to take three points, but I didn’t believe we played well,” he said. “The second half, not just the second half, I don’t think we played well. We scored goals early. We were very careless, casual.

“We spoke about it at halftime. Started the second half and immediately allowed Houston right back into the game. Not enough guys really taking responsibility, being sharp enough. So tonight has got to be a game that we look at as a lesson. We’ve got two regular-season games left, and we’ve got to be harder on each other. We’ve got to raise the bar a little bit.”

Diego Rossi opened the scoring in the ninth minute, assisted by Mohameed El-Munir.

In the 22nd minute, Eddie Segura had the ball roll to his right foot just outside the 6-yard box, and he fired it into the net to give LAFC a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

The game remained at 2-0 thanks to a penalty kick stop by goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer on Mauro Manotas.

After halftime, Houston broke through in the 46th minute on a goal by former L.A. Galaxy product Ari Lassiter.

Later, in the 59th minute, LAFC caught another break when Houston’s Matias Vera received his second yellow card and was sent off, leaving the Dynamo a man down for the remainder of the match.

LAFC nearly had a 3-1 lead in the 52nd minute, but Rossi was called offside after he finished the play with a simple tap-in.

Things eventually became a little too close for comfort for LAFC in the 86th minute when referee Ramy Touchan called a foul on Latif Blessing and pointed to the penalty spot. However, after taking a look at the video review, Touchan waived off the penalty, allowing LAFC to breathe a sigh of relief.

“We have high standards, and I don’t think a game like tonight is good enough in any way,” Bradley said. “Two regular-season matches left, you’ve really got to try to hit the playoffs with confidence, with sharpness and with a mentality that we’re a team that’s going to fight every game, play our football, compete, and try to move and get ourselves to a final and win an MLS Cup.

“So we were pretty critical after the game inside the locker room tonight because it’s a message that everyone has to understand.”

Despite the win, it wasn’t all good news for LAFC. The club announced at halftime that a player had tested positive for COVID-19. The testing was done Tuesday. All other players and members of the club underwent additional rapid testing before Wednesday’s game and returned negative tests.

Upon receiving the initial positive result, the player self-isolated and will remain in isolation and be monitored by the LAFC medical staff.

“Yes, we had a positive test,” Bradley said. “Our player was retested again today. We’ll wait for more information. Guys have done an excellent job throughout this whole thing, and so the club is doing all the right things, and hopefully we can move forward with that.”

LAFC next plays Sunday on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Lucky number 1⃣3⃣. #LAFCvHOU pic.twitter.com/jQeoYEFUn3

— LAFC (@LAFC) October 29, 2020

ANOTHER ONE!!!

🚫@kennethvermeer 🚫#LAFCvHOU 2-0 pic.twitter.com/UWVqaFJz9R

— LAFC (@LAFC) October 29, 2020

Offense, defense, @eddiesegura02 can do it all.

Replay presented by @Heineken_US. #LAFC pic.twitter.com/idsBJmcK1L

— LAFC (@LAFC) October 29, 2020

“Be sharp, train hard. When the team needs me I try to be there for them” @kennethvermeer after a clutch performance against Houston. #LAFC pic.twitter.com/vBD5qZEUpA

— LAFC (@LAFC) October 29, 2020

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