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LAFC Pull Off Last-Minute “Revenge” Win v. Real Salt Lake

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Los Angeles Football Club savored a gratifying, if surprising, overtime win against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 23, after a combative match saw both teams duking it out as if they had history. They do.

That history involves last year’s heated MLS Playoffs on LAFC home turf—a fistacuffs-inspired affair that managed to get even the temperate Carlos Vela riled up, with RSL earning five yellows and 20 fouls, and LAFC fans throwing beer cans at keeper Nick Rimando.

Despite LAFC outshooting RSL 20-4 that game, the visitors eked out a gut-wrenching 3-2 win to knock LAFC out of the bid for the cup. LAFC supporters have since made peace with Rimando (with, appropriately, more beer), but a strong sense of rivalry remains between the two clubs, as does LAFC’s desire for payback.

So it was no surprise at the start of Saturday’s game, held at Banc of California Stadium in L.A., that the home team jumped out the gate. LAFC dominated the first 10 with 70% possession and several promising build-ups from the midfield. As has become customary, captain Carlos Vela controlled the tempo of the game, creating key attacking opportunities and enabling Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing to make zooming runs up the line. The oft-unsung efforts of defender Eddie Segura were also instrumental in holding the back line and keeping the visitors at bay.

Both squads were missing players in the starting 11—LAFC midfielder Lee Nguyen out with injury, and Christian Ramirez and Mark-Anthony Kaye with their national teams (for the U.S. and Canada, respectively), while RSL were forced to play without four of their starters, including goal-scorer Albert Rusnák, due to a combination of international duty and suspensions. The situation made for an exciting and at times volatile match, with plenty of scuffles and questionable tackles, and a total of seven yellow cards and one red.

The absences also gave LAFC striker Adama Diomande and midfielder Andre Horta their first starts of the season, followed by second-half debuts from local Ontario native Adrien Perez, Javi Perez, and Niko Hämäläinen.

Despite commanding the first half, LAFC fell behind at 35 minutes after Blessing zealously chased down a ball and fouled Sebastian Saucedo in the box. RSL’s Damir Kreilach finished the PK confidently, prompting a lone, brave RSL fan to celebrate by LAFC’s supporters section (it did not last long). Blessing made up for the gaffe just five minutes later, after his through-ball to Diomande was deflected and finished with a left-footed bullet from Diego Rossi.

The second half continued to be neck-and-neck, and all signs pointed to a draw as the end of regulation time neared, when RSL’s Justin Portillo—making his MLS debut—was given a red card for clotheslining Rossi, leaving RSL down a man at the 83-minute mark.

With four minutes of extra time added, it was central defender Walker Zimmerman who gave LAFC the lead with a knuckler from outside the box. The buzzer-beater has become something of a calling card for Zimmerman, who has scored five goals in his LAFC career, four of them game winners. Zimmerman proudly walked away with the Man of the Match scarf.

Post-game, coach Bob Bradley expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance despite some blindspots in the midfield. Statistically, LAFC overshadowed the competitors with 67% possession, 11 corners (to RSL’s zero corner kicks), and outshooting the visitors 19-3. Bradley also held off critiques of Horta, insisting for a holistic look at their midfield, not the performance or passion of any one single player. He also praised Rossi’s goal-scoring moment as an important confidence-booster for a footballer who, he reminded everyone, is still young and needs time to grow. The win leaves LAFC undefeated for the season.

LAFC next play San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday, March 30, in San Jose. RSL next play FC Dallas, Saturday, March 30, at home.

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