Los Angeles FC defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Pride Night at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles Saturday evening courtesy of a wonder-goal from Carlos Vela late in the second half.
LAFC had four shots on goal within the first fifteen minutes, including three on target. Bob Bradley seemed to orchestrate a high-press to the start the match and it caught the guests off-guard, with the RSL defense making multiple mistakes in the opening 10 minutes. LAFC scored once during that run, but failed to duplicate their goal tally in the opening 15 despite dominating the pitch.
Real Salt Lake quickly adjusted, though, and astoundingly found the back of the net off a blistering counter-attack from defender Aaron Herrera and defensive midfielder Everton Luiz — two players you wouldn't expect to be leading a counter in that situation. It was Herrera's first MLS goal after 78 appearances.
Following a hectic first twenty or so minutes of the match, each side seemed to have found their groove with both sides creating opportunities in the opposition's end of the pitch. LAFC's Kim Moon-Hwan was combining brilliantly with the attacking core of his side, but the defender couldn't manage to find the right service into the box. The hosts best attempt to find a second goal in the first half came in the 36th minute, when Carlos Vela nearly scored a worldie of an attempt, but his volley smacked off the woodwork.
The second half was all LAFC, with winger Raheem Edwards shining brilliantly. The Canadian dazzled in and around the box, juking defenders and attempting to get a shot off every time the ball ended up at his feet. it eventually paid off when Edwards attempted to strike a volley in the box but instead hit the arm of Herrera, who conceded a penalty as a result.
RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa stepped up big in that moment, though, denying Vela from the spot with a stunning reaction save.
Vela's attempts didn't stop there, however. The LAFC star continued to press forward after being denied from the spot and his determination eventually paid off after he hit a stunning left-footed volley into the back of the net in the 79th minute, going over the head of Ochoa; a moment of brilliance from their most important player.
Ochoa's superb goalkeeping wasn't enough to hold on for a point on the road whereas Vela's special left foot came up big when his side needed it most.
- 11' - LAFC - Diego Rossi
- 19' - RSL - Aaron Herrera
- 79' - LAFC - Carlos Vela
- THE BIG PICTURE: This was a classic Western Conference rivalry game. The #5 and #6 seeded teams going at it head-to-head in back-and-forth action all night — it was a treat to watch. LAFC played "champagne football" and we saw what their best players can do in big moments. For RSL, however, it has to be disappointing to leave without a point. Their defense and goalkeeping was brilliant all evening and they managed to keep the hosts at bay for most of the night. If they want to continue to stay above the dreaded red line, though, they have to start finding results on the road against their Western rivals like LAFC.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: David Ochoa's penalty-kick save on Carlos Vela. The young American put on a performance for the ages in net but it was simply a moment of brilliance from Vela late to beat him. Regardless, Ochoa should hold his head high.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Carlos Vela. The Mexican international scored a stunning game winner to beat David Ochoa late in the game. In addition to his game winner, Vela completely controlled the tempo of the second half and led the line for his side all evening. His footwork, vision and immaculate passing helped draw defenders out of the way and create opportunities all evening.
- LAFC: Wednesday, July 21 at Portland Timbers | 10:30 pm ET| FS1, FOX Deportes