LAFC continued their winning ways Saturday night, defeating Real Salt Lake 2-1 behind goals from star forwards Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi.
From the onset, the Black and Gold started the game on the front foot, but were unable to finish countless chances until a spectacular effort from Vela in the 78th minute was the difference in the 2-1 victory.
Since joining LAFC in 2019, Rossi and Vela have formed one of the most dynamic attacks in all of MLS, but with both players missing time this season, the Black and Gold attack has taking longer to round into form.
Saturday’s victory showed what LAFC is capable of when their best players are healthy, but there is still room for improvement for a team that was expected to be an MLS Cup contender at the start of the season.
Here is a closer look at some key details from the match:
Moon-Hwan Flourishes as a wing-back
For the second match in a row, head coach Bob Bradley elected to go with a 3-5-2 formation and it paid dividends for LAFC, with Kim Moon-Hwan excelling in a right-wing back role.
Moon-Hwan played an inch perfect cross-field pass to Vela that ended up being the winner for LAFC and the South Korean international showed his offensive prowess throughout the match.
Moon-Hwan’s best highlight of the night won’t show up on the stat sheet, but on the eve of halftime he danced through three RSL defenders and slid a pass to Jose Cifuentes in the box, but Cifuentes pushed the shot just wide of the post.
“What you see in this last stretch is the confidence,” said head coach Bob Bradley. “You his ability to step up, intercept, to be active in the attack, not only out wide but coming inside so that he’s more complete player.”
After missing time at the start of the season with a knee injury and adapting to playing soccer in a new country, Moon-Hwan has started the last five games for LAFC and his ability to lock down the right-back spot is a huge boost to a team that is flush with star power.
Attack Continues to Improve
After struggling to score goals to start the season, the LAFC attack showed shades of dominance in the win, with 29 shots and 59% of the possession.
‘It’s a night where certainly we could have scored more goals but we’re creating a lot of chances,” said Bradley.
Both Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi thrived as dual strikers, as both players took turns as the creative presence while the other was the lethal finisher.
On the first goal, Diego Rossi worked a nice one-two passing sequence with Jose Cifuentes that ended with Rossi beating David Ochoa at the far post.
In total the Black and Gold had 11 shots in the first half and should have scored more, but credit to David Ochoa for making countless big saves.
On two separate occasions on the night, Carlos Vela rattled the post and he also missed a penalty after Raheem Edwards drew a handball on Aaron Herrera.
Even with the finishing woes, getting into dangerous positions at will speaks to an LAFC attack that is more cohesive than years past, but still has the same playmakers at the top to make magic when needed.
Carlos. Vela. Golazo. 😱
That's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/U8k4fp6v2Y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 18, 2021
In terms of other players that stood out in the attack, Raheem Edwards stepped in for Mark Anthony-Kaye who is on international duty with Canada and was a menace in the midfield.
Edwards was selected by LAFC in the 2020 Re-Entry Draft from Minnesota United as a depth piece, but he has started the last two matches and suddenly become an important piece for Bob Bradley.
“In the second half Raheem started pushing forward, creating things on the dribble and getting into the box,” said Bradley. “So that gives us extra dimension in terms of the way wecan attack teams.”
Against RSL, Edwards won five tackles in the first half alone and had six shots in the match.
LAFC PLAYER RATINGS:
Tomas Romero (6.5): Romero had a quiet night and there was not much he could have done on the lone RSL goal.
Kim Moon- Hwan (8): Moon-Hwan easily put forth his best performance in his young LAFC career. He found Vela for the game-winning goal and was one of the best players on the field.
Eddie Segura (7): It was a quiet night for the LAFC lead center-back, he was pushed forward on the corner that lead to RSL’s goal so no fault there, and he hardly put a foot wrong on the night.
Jesus Murillo (7): Murillo and Romero cleaned up an RSL goal scoring opportunity in the first half, but other then that it was a quiet night for the Colombian defender. He earned a yellow card that will force him to miss a game because of accumulation, but he was not troubled by the RSL attack.
Marco Farfan (6.5): Farfan was stretched on the RSL counter-attack goal, but he was solid otherwise and continues to be an important member of the defense in the center or out wide.
Latif Blessing (7.5): Blessing was a pressing monster in the midfield, and was an important part of the transition play for LAFC.
Eduard Atuesta (7): Atuesta like always sat deep in the midfield, dictating possession slowing the few RSL attacks that came through the center.
Raheem Edwards (7.5): It was a massive game from Edwards who lead provided a huge spark of energy from the midfield. He was impactful in all three aspects of the game.
Jose Cifuentes (7): Cifuentes showed well in the match as the main facilitator behind Vela and Rossi. Perhaps the Ecuadorian international could have been more effective as the match wore on, but he gets points for assisting Rossi’s goal.
Carlos Vela (8.5): Vela had moments of brilliance including the eventual game winner, but gets docked a little for missing a penalty and a few other chances.
Diego Rossi (8): Rossi came out the gates strong and scored the opening goal. He faded a little as the match went on, but his chemistry with Vela looked as good as ever.