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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