BLACK & GOLD ENDGAME
Seattle 2-0 LAFC
May 16, 2021
LAFC dropped its second straight game in 2021, falling 2-0 to the Sounders as Seattle used two second half goals to break open a scoreless halftime tie and ruin the return of 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela to the field from a three-game injury lay off.
Despite the loss that dropped LAFC into last place in the Western Conference for the first time in Club history, the Black & Gold were encouraged by the return of Carlos Vela to the field. Vela came on as a second half substitute and played the final 20 minutes against the Sounders.
“He was able to go 20 minutes tonight,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said about Vela. “I don’t think it was a 20 minutes that really pushed him very hard, so I think there is more minutes for him coming up.”
Vela suffered a right quad injury just 22 minutes into the season opener on April 17 vs. Austin, forcing him to miss the next three matches.
“It was important to just get Carlos back on the field,” Bradley said. “We saw some good touches, but he we didn’t really get a chance to see him be dynamic tonight in terms of taking off and getting behind people.”
Vela only played in six regular season games in 2020 due to a personal situation and a knee injury, and the Black & Gold has compiled a gaudy 31-16-10 (W-D-L) regular season record when he plays 90 minutes since 2018.
“Obviously, when Carlos isn’t there, it is a big miss for us,” LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye said. “We’re not going to act like we don’t need a player like that on our team, we definitely do.”
ONLY PLACE TO GO IS UP
After week five of the 2021 MLS season, LAFC has compiled five points in five games. It is the lowest point total through five matches in the Club’s history, and leaves the Black & Gold facing some real adversity as they look to host Colorado on May 22.
“This is new territory for us,” Bradley said. “This is a rough start for sure. We can’t be afraid of the moment, man. We’ve got to find a way to just raise the bar in a lot of little ways.”
Bradley blames the Club’s inability to capitalize on the “little things” for some of the missed opportunities, as well as the Black & Gold not taking advantage of offensive chances.
“We’ve not done a good enough job of going forward,” Bradley said. “In terms of making enough big chances – that is such an important part of the way we play. We have to keep ourselves going.”
Mark-Anthony Kaye, one of seven LAFC players who has been with the team since the start in 2018 is eager to get back to the high Black & Gold standard the Club has maintained over the last three seasons.
“We know that this hasn’t been the best start to a season for us,” Kaye said. “We’ve been a Club for four years, and when you start very well like we have, you have a high standard to keep and maintain. We all know it is a tough moment right now, but the group understand that we still have a lot more games to go.”
With Vela returning and Diego Rossi getting back to full strength after missing the first two games due to a hamstring injury, Bradley sees things looking up for his team.
“I believe strongly that we’re going to become a very good team,” Bradley said.
SEATTLE STRIKES AGAIN
Like many of their first five matches in 2021, LAFC was able to kick off the game well, putting pressure on their opponent before Seattle broke through in the second half.
“I thought we started the game pretty well,” Bradley said. “We were winning balls in good positions in the first half, but not doing well enough in some of those situations to turn it into big chances.”
LAFC controlled possession in the first 45 minutes, owning the ball 54.8% of the time in the first half.
“I think in the first half we did well to raise the tempo of the game,” Kaye said. “I think our intensity and our mentality was right. It was unfortunate to not create more opportunities when we had that momentum in the first half, and for the most part I think we stopped them from having opportunities.”
The Sounders started the second half playing much more direct, applying pressure on the Black & Gold, and eventually earning several free kicks in dangerous areas – and then the fatal corner kick in the 57th minute where Xavier Arreaga popped a header into the corner of the net past Pablo Sisniega.
“In the second half they put more pressure on us,” Bradley said. “We committed a couple of stupid fouls, and then the game turns on the corner. We didn’t do a good job of dealing with Arriaga slipping in there.”
The Sounders doubled their score and effectively put the game away in the 73rd minute on a Brad Smith goal, with his header capping off a strong Seattle counterattack up the field after LAFC had looked dangerous at the top of the Sounders penalty area.
“Those are the little details that when you play and push the game, but don’t make enough happen in key moments,” Bradley said. “Then the game turns on a couple of plays.”
Kaye was frustrated with the way LAFC handled the final 45 minutes vs. the Sounders.
“We wanted to come out and carry our play over into the second half,” Kaye said. “In the second half they were a little more direct and made it hard on us to pick up second balls. It is unfortunate that in a game where I feel like we were very tuned in and ready to come away without any points is frustrating and disappointing.”