Los Angeles Football Club began their first MLS Cup Playoffs game full of confidence and a home game to make a mark, but were upset in the Knockout Round by Real Salt Lake with a 3-2 scoreline on Thursday at Banc of California Stadium.
The result knocks out LAFC from the playoffs. Their expansion season is over, and while there were plenty of highs, there will be no silverware, no deep run in the playoffs, not even a postseason win to continue what had been a promising debut campaign for the black-and-gold.
Bob Bradley opted to leave Eduard Atuesta on the bench to start this game, starting Latif Blessing in an “all-out attack” formation for the home side. RSL, meanwhile, had a few curious starters, including little used midfielder Luke Mulholland and the center back tandem of Nedum Onuoha (2 career MLS games) and Marcelo Silva, which started just one game together during the season.
But RSL were up for it, and opened the scoring against the run of play in the 21st minute, as Brooks Lennon sent a looping cross backwards into the box and found Damir Kreilach with plenty of space to calmly finish.
Damir Kreilach gives #RSL the 1-0 lead against the run of play! Great cross from deep in the corner by Brooks Lennon, and the #LAFC defense just completely fell asleep.#LAFCvRSL #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/rZLyf3vUSf— #ThankYouDeuce (@JogaBonito_USA) November 2, 2018
The next 10 minutes of the match were crazy, in all manner of ways. Spectators in The 3252 threw debris at the field, and towards RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. After LAFC were warned to stop that behavior, they were given one final warning, but curiously, referee Mark Geiger decided to let LAFC take a free kick before suspending play.
On that play, in the 31st minute, LAFC scored, with Vela setting up Danilo Silva for a header that beat Rimando.
#LAFC equalize on a set piece. Danilo Silva somewhat redeems himself after his defensive error, powering in a header off Carlos Vela's free kick.— #ThankYouDeuce (@JogaBonito_USA) November 2, 2018
1-1. #LAFCvRSL #MLS #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/xQMi7AtGYl
The game was immediately suspended for five minutes to help everyone cool down and to make it clear to fans at the game that they could not continue to throw debris on the field. From there, the rest of the first half finished without incident.
Christian Ramirez replaced Adama Diomande at halftime for LAFC, and the move paid off, as Ramirez scored a go-ahead goal in the 54th minute, with a high blast that had perfect placement to beat Rimando.
In spite of the good vibes, they only lasted a few minutes, before Kreilach scored his second goal of the game with one of the most audacious finishes you’re likely to see, a flying karate kick volley that Tyler Miller had no chance of stopping.
No big deal just a FREAKING CRANE KICK GOAL pic.twitter.com/3M6uUt8Bzm— SB Nation Soccer (@SBNationSoccer) November 2, 2018
It got worse: LAFC went down 3-2 in the 69th minute as Jefferson Savarino’s cross/shot went in the net, as Walker Zimmerman deflected the attempt and it caught Miller out completely.
LAFC controlled the ball for the entire rest of the game, but played long ball and couldn’t get enough shots on target to really test RSL’s defense.
In second-half stoppage time, Zimmerman caught Mulholland in the head with a high boot. It was inadvertent but a dangerous play, and fans in the South End began throwing beers onto the field during the stoppage in play. Zimmerman did not receive a red card for the play, which he certainly could have.
It was a terribly disappointing result for LAFC, and given those in the stands who engaged in dangerous behavior and used a homophobic slur throughout the second half, it was a disappointing night all around. And it puts a sour note to end what had been a promising season for LAFC.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!