LAFC 2-0 Galaxy
MLS Regular Season – Game #19
Oct. 25, 2020
After playing shorthanded for much of the season due to injuries to key players such as 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela and 2019 Best XI performer Eduard Atuesta, LAFC was hit by even more injuries and absences due to international duty over the last four weeks.
But on Sunday against the Galaxy at Banc of California Stadium, the picture of a team getting geared up for the playoffs began to come into focus. Sitting in fourth place and with a big match against their rivals coming up, the Black & Gold welcomed back leading scorer Diego Rossi and starters Brian Rodríguez, Diego Palacios and José Cifuentes from international duty. In the second half, Vela officially made his return, marking his first game since Aug. 22 when he suffered a knee injury in a 2-0 loss to the Galaxy. Tristan Blackmon, who last played on Sept. 9 also returned from a hamstring injury, and Latif Blessing, who did not play in the last match vs. Portland due to illness came on for 30 minutes.
After Rossi drew a foul on Giancarlo Gonzalez that resulted in a red card, LAFC dominated the match but failed to score in the first half, and continued to bombard the Galaxy goal until Danny Musovski converted a breakaway chance off a pass from Rossi in the 58th minute.
Vela returned with a flourish, coming on in the 70th minute and then banging home a goal with minutes remaining to give the Black & Gold their third-ever victory over their neighbors to the south.
“This was a good team win,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “And when I say team – it’s not just the guys that played today. It is everybody, because in this last stretch, everybody’s been called on and different guys have stepped up.”
RETURN OF THE KING
Carlos Vela was the goalscoring king of MLS a year ago, setting the league record with 34 goals in a season en route to the most dominant season the league has ever seen. He has only played in a total of four regular season games in 2020, missing the MLS Is Back Tournament to remain in Los Angeles with his pregnant wife, and then suffering a knee injury on Aug. 22.
But now, after a 10-week layoff, Vela is back. Entering the match in the 70th minute, Vela quickly showed that he is close to regaining his form, looking dangerous and exhibiting the touch around the goal LAFC fans have come to expect.
“It means a lot to everybody that Carlos not only gets back on the field after being out a while, but then scores an excellent goal,” Bradley said. “It’s been really good just to have him back in training.”
His goal was another Vela masterpiece, taking a pass on the right side of the field in the box, and chipping it over a sliding Galaxy goalkeeper with his right foot.
Now the proud father a new baby daughter, India, Bradley said Vela is ready to go.
“There has been a lot this year,” Bradley said. “Carlos, in the midst of everything, the great news is still the family news and the birth of daughter. Everybody has supported him throughout the process and we’re excited to get him back every day and have him really finish the season in a great way.”
Despite missing time with his injury, Vela never stopped being visible at the team’s training facility and being a veteran leader for a young team trying to deal with adjusting to missing his goals, but also playing through a pandemic.
“He’s a leader in a really positive way,” Bradley said about Vela. “And MCL injuries are a challenge. Even as you make progress, even as you’re doing things on the side – the final bit of confidence that comes from doing things in a game – that takes time. You never know exactly how long that last step takes in terms of confidence. But he’s excited. He’s always in a good mood and his personality, his sense of humor and just his all-around good way is important in terms of the chemistry of our group.”
While the big news for LAFC was the return of Vela, another key player returned to the pitch from an injury. Tristan Blackmon, who had started nine out of the 10 games in defense this season prior to suffering a hamstring injury in training in the first week of September, made his come back to the field in the 77th minute.
“Tristan worked very hard throughout this process,” Bradley said. “We’re happy for him. He is still someone that we count on, also. Everyone knows that and getting him back on the field was great.”
Blackmon played much of the season in the right back position, although LAFC long envisioned him as a center defender to pair with Eddie Segura once Walker Zimmerman was traded in the preseason.
Against the Galaxy, Blackmon played the final 15 minutes with newly acquired center defender Jesús Murillo, allowing Segura to move into more of a defensive midfielder role.
“That gives us a different way to go about things,” Bradley said. “We thought that was a good way to finish the game and I thought the guys handled the final part of the game in a smart, good way.”
In addition to Blackmon, Latif Blessing came on in the 60th minute after not playing vs. Portland last Sunday due to an illness, and Diego Rossi, Brian Rodríguez, Diego Palacios and José Cifuentes all saw minutes as they were finally cleared to play after being with their national teams in World Cup Qualifying and then undergoing a league-mandated 10 day quarantine period.
“Just getting guys back has been a big boost,” Bradley said. “It makes training better; it means that there’s more competition for guys to get on the field.”
With Mark-Anthony Kaye still sidelined as he recovers from a severely sprained ankle, LAFC is beginning to get back in shape for the MLS stretch run, now leaving Bradley with the problem of figuring out how to utilize his abundance of talent.
“It’s nice that we’ve got more options,” Bradley said. “The flexibility is important, and it says a lot about different guys.”
Bradley cited the stabilizing influence of newly acquired Jesús Murillo on the backline, as a player who has added another element of flexibility to the Club.
“I feel really comfortable playing with Jesus,” LAFC defender Eddie Segura said. “We are trying to do what it takes in order for him to adapt as quickly as possible. He has fantastic characteristics and has already started helping the group. We are very happy to have him here with us.”
Also, Bradley was supportive of Mohamed El-Munir, who has stepped in as the starting right back in the last two games and been solid as evidence the Black & Gold can have success mixing and matching lineups.
“Mo is a guy that everybody really likes,” Bradley said. “The rest of his teammates are always excited to see him contribute.”
THE MOOSE IS LOOSE…AGAIN
Danny Musovski netted the game-winning goal, scoring in transition in the 58th minute to cap a day that saw the 25-year-old UNLV product earn a start at forward over MLS-legend Bradley Wright-Phillips and continue to shine for the Black & Gold. It is now the 5 goal of the season in 584 MLS minutes for Musovski.
“We are all so pleased with Danny’s development this year,” Bradley said. “He has picked up ideas, you see he’s got a really good set of skills as a striker. He moves with the ball, and scores different kinds of goals. He’s good in the air. He is a two-footed striker, so he has the ability to scores when he’s moving left or right and I think some of his ideas in terms of moving, understanding how he can come off defenders and create different advantages. – so we have tried to help Danny understand the things he can do and help him figure out how to apply those things. It has been nice to see his contribution and just the way others believe in him. That’ been a really important development.”
As the ball was played out of the back, Musovski was able to get on the end of a beautiful pass from Rossi.
“Diego got the ball pretty deep in our half,” Musovski said. “I didn’t get a lot of space to run behind and he played a great ball. I just looked up and saw the keeper was coming out. So in those scenarios, as a striker, you know you need to chip it. That is hard, because you don’t normally have time to hit a window or hit a corner. I just tried to lift it up and it went in."
Another big goal for Musovski, but one that has more significance against the Galaxy.
“Of course, whenever you can score in a derby game, that’s big time,” Musovski said. “We know the fans want us to win this game so much, and to get the goal to win the game, it’s a good feeling.”
A group of LAFC supporters gathered across the street from Banc of California Stadium, wearing masks and safely cheering on the Black & Gold from afar. Despite being outside of the stadium and across the crowded Figueroa Ave, their support was heard and much appreciated. After the match, a group of LAFC players scaled the stairs and walked up to the stadium gate to let the fans know they were heard.
“We appreciate that so much,” Musovski said. “That was so awesome to see something like that. They were just cheering us and singing. That was a special moment for me and for the team to see that. We’ve missed their support.”
BOB MOVES UP
Bob Bradley continues to make history with LAFC. One of the most decorated coaches in American Soccer, Bradley is a three-time MLS Coach of the Year award winner and is now the third-winningest coach in MLS history.
The win vs. the Galaxy on Oct. 25 was Bradley’s 169th career victory. He is just one win away from moving into third place alone, for now he shares the distinction with former Houston and San Jose coach and current Galaxy assistant coach Dominic Kinnear for third in all-time coaching wins.
Bradley can surpass Kinnear with one more win this season that will push him into all alone third place all-time, behind just Sigi Schmid (240 wins) and Bruce Arena (217).
MLS ALL-TIME COACHING RECORDS
W L T
Sigi Schmid 240 183 125
Bruce Arena 217 127 105
Bob Bradley 169 114 76
Dominic Kinnear 169 137 135