There were 126 days and a global pandemic in between LAFC’s second and third match of the 2020 MLS season. It was a bit of a surreal moment as the Black & Gold returned to the field on July 13 for the first match in Group F of the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando vs. Houston, but after falling behind 3-1 in the first half, Bob Bradley’s squad stormed back with two second-half goals to earn the point.
THE HEART STILL BEATS
LAFC started off 2020 with an astounding comeback win over Club Leon to advance to in the Concacaf Champions League. The heart of the Club was on display yet again in the heat of Orlando, as LAFC overcame their defensive miscues in the first half to earn the draw.
LAFC dominated with 71% of possession and fired off 23 shots compared to just nine for the Dynamo, but it was the football ideas that were still intact that Bradley was the most pleased with.
“It was good to get back on the field and I am very pleased that there were some moments of good football,” Bradley said. “Our ideas continue to go in a good direction.”
LAFC expected Houston to take advantage of long balls and attempting to service the dangerous Alberth Elis, and they did not disappoint -- but it was three defensive mistakes that Houston was able to capitalize on to take their early lead.
“On the first goal outside the box, instead of just closing down we turned our back,” Bradley said. “The second [goal], when [Memo] Rodriguez came in from deep, the reaction in the defense, Tristan [Blackmon] was a little slow to react. That’s a play he’s got to make. And the [third goal], the free kick we just didn’t handle it well.”
Down 3-1 at halftime, LAFC responded in a way that pleased their coach, and almost helped them pull off the victory.
“We were able to push the game in the second half,” Bradley said. That’s a credit to the work the guys have put in. I really liked in the second half we were able to vary it and make little passes off the edge of the defense and get Brian [Rodríguez] and Diego [Rossi] into good positions.”
Despite Houston bringing numbers deep into the box to defend for the final 45 minutes, LAFC showed positives in figuring out ways to provide an offensive spark.
“I think the biggest problem was our tempo,” Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “We kind of played the way they wanted to play [in the first half]. I think in the second half, you see we came out a bit sharper and we got those two goals. I think we could have gotten three points.”
ROSSI IS RIGHT
In the weeks leading up to Monday’s match-up vs. Houston, Bradley had pointed out MLS All-Star Diego Rossi as a player who had returned from the break already in top shape and was exhibiting solid form in training.
“He has set the bar the highest,” Bradley said about the Uruguayan attacker. “He has been really good in training.”
Rossi showed it against the Dynamo, making dangerous runs throughout and wreaking havoc on the wings en route to recording an assist on Bradley Wright-Phillips first LAFC goal and crushing a wicked blast past Houston goalkeeper Marco Maric in the 63rd minute.
“He is tremendously talented,” Wright-Phillips said of Rossi. “He hasn’t played for a while and he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.”
Speaking of not missing a beat, Bradley Wright-Phillips made his first start for LAFC, and his first MLS start since Sept. 15, 2019 when he played 90 minutes in a Red Bulls loss to Seattle. It only took him 19 minutes to get back on the score sheet, registering the 109th goal of his MLS career. It was his first goal in over a year, however, as BWP last scored an MLS goal in a July 7, 2019 match vs. Atlanta.
“It was like going back to school,” Wright-Phillips said. “I was happy I got the start and also happy to get some match fitness. I haven’t played for awhile, and I enjoyed it.”
Wright-Phillips’ first LAFC goal was similar to the way he has found the back of the net so many times before, putting himself in the right place in the middle of the goal, waiting for the perfect cross.
“His play around the goal is still special,” Bradley has said of Wright-Phillips. “You can see the understanding that is developing between Brad and some of the other attackers.”
LIGHTNING STRIKES – FINALLY
Bob Bradley has described LAFC attacker Bryan Rodríguez as a “talented guy”, and someone that the Club is “just trying to help, as he is someone that puts pressure on himself.”
The pressure that was on Rodríguez was due to the dynamic Uruguayan National Team player appearing in 13 total LAFC matches, and not yet finding the back of the net. Some of the misses had been dramatic. Some had seemed almost too easy, all had begun to weigh on his mind.
Finally, after Monday’s performance – some of that pressure is off. Rodríguez came through with a brilliant finish for the tying goal in the 69th minute. It was a moment to celebrate, and a moment a long time coming in a Los Angeles uniform for the 20-year-old.
“This is something I have been looking for,” Rodríguez said. “Scoring gives me a lot of trust [from my teammates]. I feel I have evolved a lot as a player, and of course by scoring I know feel a little more loose now and that helps me.”
LAFC defender Dejan Jaković first appeared in MLS in 2009. He started 23 games for DC United that year, and the veteran is now in his eighth overall MLS season, after spending three seasons playing in Japan and one in the NASL. Midway through the second half, Jaković hit a big professional milestone, playing his 10,000th minute in the league. Jaković has appeared in 119 total MLS regular season games, making 112 starts.
LAFC forward Adama Diomande replaced Bradley Wright Phillips in the second half, but only played 17 minutes before departing with a right foot injury. His status is to be determined.
Danny Musovski made his LAFC and MLS debut July 13 vs. Houston, coming on for Diomande in the 77th minute. Signed by LAFC in the offseason, the Las Vegas native had spent the previous two seasons playing for Reno 1868 FC in the United Soccer League.