An own goal proved to be the difference in a wild late-night Western Conference matchup between LAFC and Real Salt Lake, which saw the Black & Gold take all three points in a 3-2 victory at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.
Cristian Arango scored a brace for LAFC, including the fastest goal in club history, to pace the hosts. Damir Kreilach and Anderson Julio each scored to bring Real Salt Lake back from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1, but an unfortunate own goal off the foot of RSL's Toni Datkovic wound up standing as the decisive tally in a match with big Audi MLS Cup Playoffs implications. The win takes LAFC level on points with RSL in the seventh and final Western playoff spot, and below the line only on goal differential.
LAFC jumped on top on the very first sequence after kickoff, with Arango finishing off a clinically executed attack just 20 seconds into the match to give the hosts a stunning opener. The tally was the fastest goal to start a match LAFC history, beating the previous mark set earlier this season by Eduard Atuesta, who scored 85 seconds into his team's match against the Seattle Sounders back on April 24.
RSL would regroup, however, and find an equalizer on 28 minutes through a stunner from Kreilach. The standout Croatian unleashed a gorgeous curling distance strike from the right side that was perfectly placed at the far post.
But the 1-1 scoreline would prove to be short-lived as LAFC snatched the lead right back just two minutes later. It was Arango who provided the finish again, this time with a snap header off a pinpoint assist from Atuesta.
LAFC were unable to hold the lead again, as Julio found another leveler for RSL just on the other side of the halftime whistle. The Ecuadorian got free on a breakaway set up by a through ball from Albert Rusnak and made no mistake with the finish past Tomas Romero.
Once again, though, the hosts would regain the advantage, this time through a gift of an own goal that was charged to RSL's Toni Datkovic. The defender attempted a wayward back pass that went past goalkeeper David Ochoa and rolled into his own net. The bizarre sequence would end up as the game's final goal despite a couple more late chances for both sides.l
- 1' - LAFC - Cristian Arango
- 28' - RSL - Damir Kreilach
- 30' - LAFC - Cristian Arango
- 48' - RSL - Anderson Julio
- 59' - LAFC - Toni Datkovic (OG)
- THE BIG PICTURE: It was certainly some quintessential #MLSAfterDark action, highlighted by the record-breaking opener and the bizarre own goal. In the end, it's a huge win for LAFC, both in terms of covering ground in the playoff race, and from a psychological perspective in a season that has seen them drop a lot of points from winning positions. Bob Bradley's group have had their struggles, but with 11 matches to play, they find themselves right in the heat of the Western Conference playoff race. It's a frustrating one for RSL, as this result wastes two separate comebacks that put them in position to steal points on the road, only to see it slip away due to a very preventable defensive lapse.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Cristian Arango's opener set the tone for the theatrics to follow, and provided a slice of history in the process.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Marco Farfan had a brief but eventful cameo that ended up as one of his better performances in an LAFC uniform, putting in an extremely active shift on both sides of the ball from his left back spot after entering as a second-half substitute.
- LAFC: Wednesday, September 15 at Austin FC | 6pm PT (Bally Sports SoCal, Estrella TV, MLS LIVE on ESPN+)