LAFC 4 - 2 PORTLAND TIMBERS
MLS Regular Season – Game #11
Sept 13, 2020
In this incredibly strange, up and down, start and stop 2020 season – the Los Angeles Football Club enjoyed another ride up on Sunday night at Banc of California Stadium. Just four days after getting shut out in a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, LAFC returned to its attacking, high-octane football and exploded for a 4-2 win over the Portland Timbers, and also welcomed back 2019 MLS Best XI midfielder Eduard Atuesta from injury.
“First and foremost, I’m happy for the players,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “When you go through a little bit of a tough stretch or adversity you've got to find ways to play out of it.”
After falling behind 0-1 on a Portland goal in the 25th minute, Mark-Anthony Kaye tied the score off a corner kick in the 37th minute.
We just needed to play through it,” LAFC forward Danny Musovski said. “That's the only thing we can do. We were in a bit of a rough stretch and we just want to bounce back. The only way you can do that is game by game. So that's the only thing we can do and I think we did a good job of that today.”
Kaye’s goal seemed to ignite the LAFC offense that had failed to score in the previous two matches, as Diego Rossi added to his MLS-leading goal total with his 10th goal in the 41st minute, finishing off a brilliant string of passes from the Uruguayan connection of Pancho Ginella and Brian Rodríguez.
“Diego's goal was a really good goal in terms of how the ball moved and the timing,” Bradley said. “That certainly gives confidence again and that reinforces with players that these are the things that we have tried to do and if you go through a period and things are not as sharp, then you've got to just focus on getting back to some of the basic things and doing them better and better, faster and faster.”
Bradley Wright-Phillips continued his move up the MLS record books with a goal in the 45th minute, and then Danny Musovski finished the scoring in the 95th minute with his second goal of the season.
“I liked the fact that at the end of halftime we regrouped quickly,” Bradley said. “And then in the second half we didn't give up a goal. That's important for us as we continue to try to just regain confidence. And then we finished it off with a good goal at the end.”
The match was important for the three points over a Western Conference rival, but the win marked the return of 2019 MLS Best XI midfielder Eduard Atuesta to the field. Atuesta was injured in the final minutes of LAFC’s loss to Orlando in the quarterfinals of the MLS Is Back Tournament on July 31. One of the undisputed leaders of the Black & Gold was forced to miss six games, and it was obvious his presence was missed in the midfield.
“Of course, it is nice to get Eduard back on the field,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “He helped us with some composure which led to the fourth goal.”
Atuesta’s foot injury recovered enough for him to return to training in the last week, as he continued to show progress and each day adjust to pushing himself more. He entered against Portland in the 80th minute, and the Colombian immediately made his presence felt, showing his importance on Musovski’s goal. Atuesta dribbled past three Timbers defenders before slipping a deft pass to Kaye, who found a streaking Musovski for the goal.
“You can see that when he steps on the field, even as he's coming back from injury, his intelligence on the field is really important for us,” Bradley said. “There are some players that just make everyone else on their team better. When they have the ball, they give the game rhythm, they make good decisions, and Eduard is certainly that player for us. His way is to give our team rhythm and just pick the right spots,” Bradley said. “That's still a big part of what he brings.”
Latif Blessing was one of the first players to join LAFC, coming to the team in the 2018 Expansion Draft. He is the last player from that draft to remain with the Black & Gold, and one of eight players still with the team from the inaugural season. The versatile Blessing quickly became a fan favorite at Banc of California Stadium, and he also has become a favorite of head coach Bob Bradley.
Bradley realized he needed Blessing on the field – anywhere he could slot him in.
“Latif's a special guy in that regard. He's very versatile,” Bradley said. “But if you're going to have a good team, you have to have players that understand in some moments that it's not about what they want to do or what they like to do. It's about doing what's best for the team. You continuously try to find ways to challenge guys like Latif to do that.”
Even though playing all over the field, especially in defense, isn’t the most natural position for a player who smashed scoring records in the Ghana First Division, Blessing is ready to contribute any way he can.
“I need to help the team,” Blessing said. “I’m ready to play any position that Bob wants me to play. I’m going to play it.”
Blessing appeared in his 100th career MLS game Sunday vs. Portland, quite a milestone for the 23-year-old who came to the United States from Ghana just four years ago.
“I thank everybody,” Blessing said. “I thank my family. I thank my mom, everybody in the LAFC, in the MLS. For me to make a great team like this, I'm so happy. So this is my 100th game. I have to keep going. I have to keep my head up and that's what I'm doing. My 100th game that we won, so I’m so happy."
“He’s so versatile,” Bradley said. “I’m really proud of the fact that even if it's not necessarily his favorite position, that you saw the way he went about it tonight, and that kind of mentality only helps our team.”
ROSSI AGAIN AND THE LEADER
Win or lose, after almost every game in 2020, Bob Bradley has heaped praise on Diego Rossi. The 22-year-old Uruguayan striker has moved into a leadership role and has continued to find ways to step up with 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela sidelined due to injury.
Rossi was at it again on Sunday vs. Portland, giving LAFC a lead in the 41st minute and adding to his league-high tally of 10 goals.
“We love the way Diego has taken more responsibility,” Bradley said. “He’s become more of a leader. You could see it in Orlando and it continues. He’s growing as a player. I’m really proud to see the way Diego just keeps focused on the right things. He’s a really good team guy and I think he’s getting better and better.”
Rossi wore the captain’s armband from the start vs. the Timbers, and continues to lead the team with his play.
“We’re a young team,” Bradley said. “You’ve got to try to make sure that some of these guys who have been here and understand the way we play really take more responsibility every day with their teammates, and that’s what I see from Diego.”
BWP MOVING ON UP
MLS legend Bradley Wright-Phillips continued his assault on the league record books. The veteran is already the fastest MLS player to score 100 goals and added to his impressive goalscoring tally with another goal Sunday vs. Portland. Wright-Phillips now sits seventh on the MLS all-time scoring list with 113 goals, just one behind LAFC assistant coach Ante Razov.
“There were a number of good performances tonight,” Bradley said. “It was good to see Brad get a goal again.”
Wright-Phillips, the first LAFC player to score a goal in each of his first three games, was dangerous throughout the night, and proved that he is healthy and ready to regain his form after an injury-plagued and frustrating 2019 season with the Red Bulls.
CHASE IS ON – MLS ALL-TIME GOAL SCORING LIST
6. Ante Razov 114
7. BWP 113
8. Jason Kreis 108
9. Dwayne De Rosario 104
10. Taylor Twellman 101