That was about as nervy of a 4-1 victory as you'll ever see. There were moments of pure brilliance from LAFC. Then there were stretches where you had sinking feeling it could all go wrong, again. But in the end, the result favored the Black & Gold. And LAFC are now second in the Western Conference, just one point back of FC Dallas for the top spot.
Against Orlando City, Adama Diomande was on the scoresheet once again - its now nine goals in seven matches to start his MLS career. Latif Blessing and Diego Rossi also found the net for the Black & Gold, while Sacha Kljestan momentarily brought Orlando City to within one via a strike in the 59th minute.
There's a lot to talk about in this one, here are the takeaways from the 4-1 victory:
Exorcising Houston's Demons
Admit it, with LAFC up 2-0 in the second half, you got a bit nervous.
LAFC looked dominant throughout the first half, and was rewarded with goals by Diomande and Blessing just four minutes apart. But when Klejstan pulled a goal back in the 59th minute, the Black & Gold were clearly on the ropes. And the question became: did the team learn from the Houston match?
They got a little help from VAR (for once), and then the team snapped out of whatever funk they were in and got back to playing their football. Goals by Diomande and Rossi, this time two minutes apart, gave LAFC the breathing room they needed. And this time, they properly killed off the game.
Tyler Miller Was Unreal
A Man of the Match performance by a goalkeeper for a team that scored four goals on the night. That's how good Tyler Miller was tonight.
It wasn't just the saves, it was the timing of Miller's stops tonight. From blanking Dom Dwyer 1v1 with the score at zero early in the match, to a double-save to preserve the 2-1 lead just three minutes before LAFC found its third goal, Miller's saves injected his side with energy when they needed it most.
The LAFC goalkeeper finished the night with eight saves, and should be in consideration for Team of the Week after the performance.
After the match, Bob Bradley talked a little more about how you manage games. Obviously, after the Houston result, it was a theme of training all week.
If we learned anything from this match, LAFC is going to live and die by its football ideals. Up 2-1, Bradley brought on Carlos Vela and Rossi just five minutes after Klejstan scored. The intent was clear. LAFC refuse to compromise the things they do best, and that is controlling opposing teams by playing football, pushing up the field, and searching for combinations that spring opportunities on goal.
It worked tonight. Maybe not perfectly. But just like Houston was a learning experience, tonight LAFC found out it can kill games by continuing to play.
Demanding More From The Defense
Once again, there were moments of adventure in the back. Walker Zimmerman had the misfortune of slipping, leading to the Klejstan goal. While Laurent Ciman went on a few walkabouts this match. But its important to understand what are mistakes, and what is the result of trying to play proactively.
Bradley expects a lot from his defense. They are the platform that allows LAFC to spread teams and find space going forward, and at times they are going to be challenged. And Bradley admits, it's not easy to play at center back in his system. But when Ciman and Zimmerman step up in the right moments, LAFC control matches from the back to front. Tonight's win showed that the challenge can be a balancing act, but when the risks pay off, there's big rewards.
To start the match tonight, LAFC had two Designated Players and two players returning from the World Cup.
Just five days after playing 90 minutes in a World Cup Round of 16 match with Mexico, Vela made his return to Banc of California Stadium in the 64th minute. Marco Ureña, fresh from starting two matches for Costa Rica at the World Cup, joined him on the pitch in the 85th minute with LAFC up 4-1.
While Omar Gaber is still recovering from a minor injury, LAFC is back to full strength and getting even stronger with André Horta available to play in matches starting July 10. With all the worries about LAFC missing key players during the World Cup, the Club went 4-1-1 in the six matches Vela, Gaber, and Ureña missed.