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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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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Galaxy gets a bounce-back win against FC Dallas

  • Galaxy defender Nick DePuy leaps to kick the ball during the second half of Wednesday’s match against FC Dallas in Carson. The Galaxy won, 3-1. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • FC Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer (20) makes a save during the first half of an MLS soccer game against the Galaxy Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, center, controls the ball against FC Dallas midfielder Edwin Cerrillo, right, during the first half of an MLS soccer game Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • FC Dallas forward Franco Jara (29) shoots past Galaxy defender Julian Araujo (2) during the second half of an MLS soccer game Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, left, kicks the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game against the FC Dallas Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira (9) is second from right. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Galaxy midfielder Rayan Raveloson (6) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • FC Dallas forward Jader Obrian (7) pulls the jersey of Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan (16) during the second half of an MLS soccer game Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Galaxy defender Nick DePuy, left, midfielder Sacha Kljestan, right, and FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira, center, battle for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer game Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget (17) celebrates with midfielder Kevin Cabral (9) after Cabral scored a goal during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, front, celebrates with midfielder Kevin Cabral after Cabral scored a goal during the first half of their 3-1 victory over FC Dallas on Wednesday night in Carson. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Galaxy players celebrate their 3-1 victory over FC Dallas after their MLS soccer game Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • A fan waves a flag in the stands before Wednesday’s match between the L.A. Galaxy and FC Dallas on Wednesday night in Carson. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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CARSON — Any question as to whether the Galaxy could score with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez missing his second consecutive game was answered early Wednesday.

Hernandez injured his calf while warming up for Sunday’s game against Sporting Kansas City, a game in which the Galaxy was shut out.

On Wednesday night, the wait for a goal wasn’t long.

Rayan Raveloson, in his second game with the Galaxy, opened the scoring against FC Dallas by soaring for a header off of a corner kick in the 17th minute. Ten minutes later, Kevin Cabral scored his first goal as a member of the Galaxy.

The early offense proved to be a much-needed boost, sending the Galaxy (8-4, 24 points) to a 3-1 victory in front of 16,453 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

The Galaxy remains in third place in the Western Conference, behind Seattle (29 points) and Kansas City (24 points).

“We rewarded ourselves for the opportunities that we were created. I thought the first half was well-played and the rewards were there because of the way we played,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said. “The second half it was good to get that third goal, a little bit against the play, a little bit some hard work from Ethan (Zubak) to track one down and put the center back under some pressure and just because he put in the shift, he got the opportunity to put it away.

“In the end, great effort to see the game out by the guys in a tough turnaround and a good bounce back from the game the other day.”

The starting lineup that Vanney sent out Wednesday had managed just three goals this season (two from Sacha Kljestan and one from Sebastian Lletget).

Even though Cabral has played just seven games, he had created several golden opportunities this season and, as Vanney said Tuesday, had found himself in good position several times but had yet to score.

He finally got in the books after taking a perfect cut-back pass from Lletget. Cabral was alone inside the 18-yard line and slotted the ball inside the near post.

In Sunday’s game against Kansas City, the Galaxy had just six available substitutes, and the Galaxy again entered a game short of healthy bodies. The roster was missing 10 players to injury, suspension or international duty. Earlier in the day, the Galaxy signed Daniel Aguirre and Josh Drack from Galaxy II in an attempt to add depth.

In the 71st minute against Dallas, the visitors spoiled what would have been the perfect evening for the Galaxy as Franco Jara scored to cut the margin to 3-1.

Zubak had given the Galaxy a 3-0 lead in the 51st minute thanks to some careless Dallas defense. Ryan Hollingshead tried to play a long aerial ball back to his goalkeeper, but the attempt was short, allowing Zubak to race in, dribble away and shoot into the open net.

The win continues the Galaxy’s streak of bouncing back after a loss. The team has followed each of its four defeats this season with a win in the following game.

“The guys had a strong mentality and they came out with the endeavor to push for the game, to go get a result,” Vanney said. “Ultimately, the ability to bounce from losses is to know who you are and know what it is that makes you successful and how you want to play and you never lose track of that.

“When things don’t go the way you want, you can always find that foundation and build off that again and this group has. … That’s part of the process of learning exactly who you are and how you get results, and this group has taken that on fast and it’s been an enjoyable process and we still think we have a lot of space we can continue to grow.”

The Galaxy will be off until July 17, when the team plays at Vancouver to begin a stretch of three straight road games.

RELIVE A WILD NIGHT, Y’ALL 🤠 pic.twitter.com/I90M5gnkl7

— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) July 8, 2021

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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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Galaxy continues downward spiral with a sixth consecutive loss

  • Los Angeles Galaxy forward Cristian Pavon (10) tries to recover the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half of a Major League Soccer match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday October 14, 2020. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy defender Emiliano Insua (3) vies for a header against San Jose Earthquakes forward Cristian Espinoza (10) during the first half of a Major League Soccer match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday October 14, 2020. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

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  • Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan (16) headers the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half of a Major League Soccer match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday October 14, 2020. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy forward Yony Gonzalez (11) vies for a header against San Jose Earthquakes defender Tanner Beason (15) during the first half of a Major League Soccer match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday October 14, 2020. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy forward Yony Gonzalez (11) looks for an open teammate against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half of a Major League Soccer match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday October 14, 2020. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy forward Cristian Pavon (10) brings the ball up the pitch against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half of a Major League Soccer match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday October 14, 2020. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Galaxy forward Javier Hernandez (14) maneuvers the ball around San Jose Earthquakes defender Tanner Beason (15) during the first half of a Major League Soccer match at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday October 14, 2020. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

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CARSON — If last week’s loss to Portland was considered a low point by coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto, then the Galaxy slipped even further Wednesday.

The Galaxy again turned in a listless performance at Dignity Health Sports Park and was played off the field by its Northern California rival as the San Jose Earthquakes won 4-0.

The loss was the sixth consecutive for the Galaxy (4-9-3), a team that is mired in last place, stuck on 15 points, in the Western Conference. The six-game losing streak is the longest for the Galaxy since 2007.

San Jose was in the Galaxy’s shoes just last month, but with the win, its fourth in the last five games, the Earthquakes (6-7-5, 23 points) have moved above the playoff line and into sixth place.

The questions facing the Galaxy front office after this performance is whether this group, with Schelotto in charge, can mount a late-season charge to save the season or is it time to make an in-season coaching change?

The Galaxy has six games remaining in the regular season, with a potential seventh, a makeup game with Colorado that has yet to be rescheduled.

The Galaxy’s troubles began early Wednesday as the Earthquakes took control of the game by creating chances and threatening the backline. In the 44th minute, their work paid off as Nick Lima opened the scoring as he found himself open after taking a pass from Andres Rios.

The Galaxy was lucky to be trailing only 1-0 at halftime. In the second half, things went from bad to worse.

San Jose went up 2-0 on a goal by Rios in the 52nd minute, and that was followed by Tommy Thompson with a top class strike from a tight angle from the right side of the goal.

Lima capped the night’s scoring with a shot from distance in the third minute of extra time.

The Galaxy managed just three shots on goal, and to complicate matters Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez was subbed off in the 54th minute.

Jonathan Klinsmann got the start in goal for the Galaxy, replacing David Bingham. Since he joined the Galaxy in 2018, Bingham has started all but two games.

 

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Alexander: LAFC had a great regular season, but it’s not enough

LOS ANGELES — Strange things happen in the playoffs. LAFC was reminded of that again Tuesday night, in brutal fashion.

Brutal, as in the way Carlos Vela was banged, bounced, jolted and otherwise had his path impeded by the Seattle Sounders, who came in with a game plan to disrupt LAFC’s explosiveness and particularly its best player, and performed it brilliantly. Brutal, as in Latif Blessing being helped off the field twice late in the first half and eventually subbed out because of a leg injury.

Brutal, as many in Banc of California Stadium – including a lot of players wearing black jerseys – considered the eyesight of referee Jair Maruffo, pointing to two particular instances of apparent handballs that were overlooked by the eyes on hand and weren’t corrected, in their opinion, by the Video Assisted Refereeing system that is supposed to rectify such errors.

Brutal? It also describes the way L.A. fans have too often seen magnificent seasons end.

This time it was LAFC’s turn. It was overwhelmingly the best team in Major League Soccer during the regular season, setting records for standings points and goal differential. But in the unforgiving world of the postseason, the only numbers that counted were those on the scoreboard Tuesday night: Seattle 3, LAFC 1.

“Nobody expected this end to our season,” said Vela, the likely MLS MVP who was limited to one shot on Tuesday. “But we know in the playoffs it’s one game. And if they make some better plays than you, you’re out.

“I think in the end we have to be proud of (what) we’ve done all year, and learn. We have to learn. We’re just two years (as) a club, and there are a lot of things to improve. But I think we are in a good way. We have to see what happened. We have to change some things, get strong, come back next year and be better.”

It’s hard to imagine many things that needed changing throughout the first 38 games of 2019. But Tuesday night’s slog of a performance brought back memories of the first-round elimination by Real Salt Lake that ended their first season, or the club’s elimination by Portland in the U.S. Open Cup this past July, both also one-and-done situations.

The postseason is mercurial in any event. Walker Zimmerman talked earlier in the week about his experience in Dallas in 2016, when that club won the Supporters Shield for the best regular-season record but was ousted by Seattle in the Western Conference semifinals.

That was a two-leg series. Dallas gave up three goals in eight minutes of the second half of the first game in Seattle and wound up losing the series 4-2 on aggregate goals.

“Anything can happen in this game, especially in a one-game series – one bad bounce, one thing going their way,” Zimmerman noted earlier in the week. “But our job is to do our best to control every moment that we can, do everything we can to make sure none of those things happen.”

So what happened Tuesday night? Two Seattle goals in four minutes of the first half, by Raúl Ruidiaz and Nicolás Lodiero, and suddenly LAFC was in trouble. Ruidiaz scored again in the 64th minute and the Sounders were in complete control.

“We did well to get the lead (on Eduard Atuesta’s goal in the 17th minute), but I thought we gave up two soft goals,” midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “Credit Seattle for coming out with a game plan that made it tough for us. We spent the whole second half trying to chase the game. … If we hadn’t given up that third goal, I felt like we were pressuring and we were going to get that tying goal. That one kind of deflated us.”

This probably shouldn’t be as surprising as it seemed. Of the last 10 teams to win the Supporters Shield, just two have gone on to win the MLS Cup: the Galaxy in 2011 and Toronto FC in 2017.

This year’s change to a single-elimination format throughout the postseason, with the higher seed always at home, was born of necessity as a way to work around international play without killing the momentum of the playoffs. It has turned out to be a benefit competitively as well, although those in attendance Tuesday night might not agree. (Especially those who threw what appeared to be beer onto the field as things slipped away in the second half.)

The fact is, there should be pressure, and tension, and the risk of losing it all in 90 minutes. That’s the beauty of the North American postseason system. If you survive, you’ve earned it, and it means you were the best team when it mattered most, with the stakes at their highest.

“Anywhere else in the world you wouldn’t have anything like this, unless you’re fighting for promotion,” LAFC’s Mark-Anthony Kaye said. “So it’s a different game when you enter the playoffs.

“We didn’t necessarily do the right things all the time, but I think we still tried to play our football, which is a positive thing. We didn’t try to stray from what we’re good at. But in games like this, you can’t let yourself go behind the game too early, because then you’re just trying to claw back the whole time and it’s a stressful period.

“… If we play this game 10 times, we probably win nine out of 10. But the playoffs are just different.”

There was some concern going in that LAFC, having survived a mega-intense battle with the crosstown rival Galaxy last Thursday to reach the conference semifinal, might let down its guard a little bit emotionally. That might have been a factor, though it was helped along by the Sounders’ intensity and physicality.

“It wasn’t a surprise to us at all,” Kaye said. “We knew coming into the game what it was going to be like, and we just didn’t match it enough throughout the game, even though we possessed the majority of the ball.”

It was a hard lesson. A team that some thought might be the best in MLS history instead left the field wondering what had hit them.

By then, again, a visiting team was celebrating on an L.A. field. Sometimes the postseason is simply cruel.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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Whicker: Adama Diomande’s return helps LAFC outlast nemesis Galaxy

LOS ANGELES — Adama Diomande was on the sideline, stretching, getting ready to change a game that had already changed drastically.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had just dribbled a goal through Tyler Miller. The Galaxy had just tied LAFC 2-2 early in the second half of their MLS Western Conference semifinal.

It was done with urgency, as if the Galaxy knew who was coming in, and what he would be bringing. Either way, two goals weren’t enough.

“I was ticked,” Diomande said, approximately. “But I had a lot of energy.”

After Diego Rossi had drilled a smart, low shot into the far corner to make it 3-2, Diomande made two strong runs down the middle for goals that made it 4-2 and 5-3.

At that point, it resembled an NBA All-Star Game, with goals oozing through the turf, but when it ended LAFC had won its first-ever game against the Galaxy in six tries, 5-3, a scalp the organization desperately wanted even though there are two games left to win for the MLS Cup.

“It was nice to win this game, finally, finally,” Diomande said.

“Our guys watched them beat Minnesota (Sunday) and it was pretty clear they wanted the Galaxy,” Coach Bob Bradley said. “This was our time.”

This is past time for Diomande.

In September he entered the league’s voluntary program for substance abuse and behavioral problems. He was reinstated last week. He had scored eight goals with seven assists previously. To get him back for this match was like a prized bauble at some sort of trade deadline.

Diomande repeated that his problems weren’t chemical. “I don’t do alcohol, I don’t use drugs,” he said. “There were personal issues. I have a clearer mind now. I’m more motivated than I was when I left the team. I’d been working out all along, I haven’t lost anything since I left.”

Almost everyone in soccer is within six degrees of Bradley, the LAFC coach. He coached Diomande at Stabaek, a club team in Oslo, Norway, in 2015. Diomande scored 25 goals in 25 games. He is Norwegian, of parents who are from the Ivory Coast, but his extended family definitely includes Bradley.

“He’s like my father because my real father really wasn’t around,” Diomande said. “We’ve talked a lot during the last few weeks. He always gives me a lot of details about how to be better on the pitch. It’s great to have his support.”

“The last part of last year and the first part of this year, he was moodier than usual,” Bradley said. “Whenever someone has personal problems, it’s a challenge. What I think about is the support he’s had from his teammates. He’s a good guy, and it was a great thing to see him out there, and not just because he had two great goals.”

Would there be a chance for Diomande to get into the starting lineup?

“I think having Carlos (Vela) and Diego (Rossi) and Brian Rodriguez, we’re pretty interesting up front,” Bradley said.

A lot of teams find their offensive mojo against the Galaxy, a team that allowed 15 goals in its final four games and ends the season with a minus-3 goal differential. Ibrahimovic, who has more than once mentioned that he, not Vela, is best suited to be the league’s MVP, took a back seat to the LAFC star on Thursday, as Tristan Blackmon had most of the defensive responsibility against Zlatan.

Bradley said he told Blackmon “not to press” the Swedish striker so much because “The Lion” is so effective with balls in the air. But he also has encouraged Blackmon to “trust his instincts” and “be brave” when it comes time to make a play.

Most believe this was Ibrahimovic’s final game in MLS. No question he colorized the league with his startling play. He had 30 regular-season goals in 29 games during the season, at age 38.

He also left a frontal personality that, as he said, will be missed by reporters “who won’t have as much to write about.” The fact that he also left Banc of California Stadium with a crotch grab, directed toward LAFC fans, is part of the accompaniment.

Vela scored the first two goals, but he also assisted Rossi on the official game-winner after picking himself off the turf. Midfielders Latif Blessing and Lee Nguyen also were on point.

But even if the best team in the league didn’t need a fresh-legged pick-me-up, it has one now.

“There was a lot of room out there on the pitch,” Diomande said, and even when there wasn’t, he made his own.

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Rossi, Pérez help LAFC tie Orlando City

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Adrien Pérez scored his first MLS goal and Diego Rossi also connected to help Los Angeles FC tie Orlando City 2-2 on Saturday night.

Rossi, on the right flank, cut inside to evade a defender, and rolled a pass to Adama Diomande, who turned and led Rossi toward the top of the 6-yard box, where he slipped a shot past diving goalkeeper Brian Rowe to tie it in the 78th minute.

Los Angeles (19-4-6), which was without Carlos Vela for the second consecutive game, is winless in its last three matches — its longest such streak this season. Vela, who leads MLS with 27 goals this season, injured his hamstring in a 3-3 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Aug. 25.

Pérez, a 23-year-old rookie making his first start and just his ninth appearance, first-timed a left-footer that deflected off the outstretched hand of Rowe into the net to open the scoring in the 12th minute. Luís Carlos “Nani” Almeida da Cunha immediately began his run after tapping the ensuing kickoff to Christian Higuiata, who played a long ball that led Nani to the top of the area where he chipped it over charging goalkeeper Tyler Miller into an open net to tie it moments later.

Benji Michel put away Ruan Carlos Gomes Costa da Silva’s low cross with a sliding first-timer from point-blank range to give Orlando City a 2-1 lead in the 20th minute.

Orlando (9-13-8) has just one win in its last five matches.

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Rossi, Blessing help LAFC beat Revolution

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing scored, Jordan Harvey had two assists and Los Angeles FC beat New England 2-0 on Saturday night to snap the Revolution’s 11-game unbeaten streak.

MLS-leading LAFC (16-3-4) has won five of its last six games.

Harvey’s long arcing pass led Rossi to the corner of the area where he chipped a soft floater over the head of goalkeeper Matt Turner into the side net in the eighth minute.

Harvey first-timed a low cross to Blessing, who patiently cut back to evade a defender before beating Turner from the top of the 6-yard box to cap the scoring in the 72nd.

Tyler Miller had one save in his seventh shutout of the season for LAFC, which outshot the Revolution 22-10.

New England (9-9-6) had won three in a row.

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