LAFC got a second-half game-winner from Jose Cifuentes, propelling the Black & Gold to a big 1-0 road victory over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
Both sides had their chances throughout the night, but the match would stay scoreless all the way until the 69th minute, when Cifuentes scored what wound up standing as the lone goal of the match with a rocket shot off a feed from Eddie Segura.
LAFC had the best early opportunity in the first half, courtesy of a free kick that was both won and taken by Carlos Vela. The star Mexico international nearly bagged the opener in spectacular fashion from the dead-ball look from just outside the area, but saw his bending shot denied by the woodwork.
Pablo Ruiz had perhaps RSL's best look at a first-half opener just before the half-hour mark, unleashing a knuckling shot from distance that forced LAFC goalkeeper Tomas Romero to lay out to his left to make the save, which wound up ensuring the opening frame would end scoreless.
RSL had a pair of good looks to start the second half, first shortly after the restart at the back end of a counterattack that ended with a scorching effort from Albert Rusnak. But Romero was up to the task again, making a reaction save that preserved the 0-0 deadlock. The hosts then came inches from the opener again in the 63rd minute when Rusnak found a wide-open Maikel Chang for a golden opportunity with a cross inside the area but Chang saw his shot on target saved by Romero again.
Romero's heroics would prove consequential, as LAFC finally found the breakthrough goal on 69 minutes. It was Cifuentes who did the honors, pouncing on a cross from Segura after a slick backheel setup from Vela, allowing the Ecuadorian to slot home the shot past RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa.
RSL nearly leveled on the other end just two minutes later after Rubio Rubin got behind the LAFC backline and got off a chipped attempt that was headed into the goal, only for Segura to make a spectacular last-ditch clearance to preserve the lead.
- 69' - LAFC - Jose Cifuentes
- THE BIG PICTURE: In a matchup where both teams could have used the three points to keep pace in the Western Conference, it was LAFC that got a big-time result and their first road victory of the season. Bob Bradley's group still have yet to break out with the dominant form we've grown accustomed to the past couple of seasons, but this win and an encouragingly active shift from the recently returned Vela are certainly a step in the right direction.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: LAFC very well could have ended up leaving with one point instead of three if not for this highlight-reel clearance from Segura to deny Rubin, which was an equally agonizing moment for RSL and the home crowd.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Segura has a great shout for the assist and that aforementioned clearance, but Tomas Romero also put in a massive shift in goal, denying several great looks from the hosts. The 20-year-old backstop gets the honors for this one.
- LAFC: Wednesday, July 7 at Austin FC | 6:00 pm PT | Bally Sports SoCal, Estrella TV