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Yankee Stadium Debut Draw: LAFC 2, NYCFC 2

LAFC are leaving with a point off the back of Carlos Vela.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club made its Yankee Stadium debut versus New York City FC with a 2-2 draw and two changes in the starting lineup: Danilo Silva at right back in place of the injured Steven Beitashour, and Latif Blessing with his first start of 2019 at left mid, moving Mark-Anthony Kaye to the right side. Vela’s two goals kept Los Angeles from returning to the Banc empty-handed.

Los Angeles’ first scoring opportunity came out of a second minute corner. After the cross was momentarily cleared, Vela curled another one. It found a wide open Walker Zimmerman at the far post, but he whiffed on the strike, and dribbled out for a goal kick.

New York got a similar opportunity in the fifth minute when a Valentin Castellanos cross sat for Alexandru Mitrita who ended up also shanking the volley attempt.

The field at Yankee Stadium is the smallest field in the MLS, which was evident due to the fast back-and-forth pace of the game. Each team was able to go from their defending third to the attacking third with just a few quick passes. NYCFC, perhaps from experience, did well to draw three fouls in their attacking half in the first 20 minutes, creating close set-piece opportunities.

It was all LAFC for the first five minutes, but the meat of the first half was thoroughly controlled by NYCFC. New York enjoyed a 69:31 possession advantage through the 26th minute, but only managed to turn it into two corner kicks to LAFC’s one. It was certainly a high-paced half from the first whistle, but the scoring chances only started coming in bunches as halftime drew closer.

Finally, in the 28th minute, Mitrita beat the slower Silva down the left side and placed a dangerous low cross, which was partially cleared, but then crossed back in to Tyler Miller’s hands for his first critical touch of the game.

The next minute, Carlos Vela found an opportunity and ripped a shot from outside the box. It sailed towards the far upper corner, but was parried by NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Johnson punched out the following corner kick, and the box was too crowded for LAFC to follow with a clean shot.

Christian Ramirez was given a decent through ball down the left side in the 33rd minute, but Maxime Chanot got to it first and safely cleared it for another LAFC corner. The corner was right at Johnson, who again punched the threat out over the goal line. Eddie Segura finally found a good look off the next corner at the near post, but lofted the header way over the bar.

LAFC’s next chance came in the form of a set piece in the 36th minute when Ramirez was fouled outside the right side of the box. Vela’s free kick went straight into the wall. Shortly after, Rossi was wide open on the left side of the box, but his shot was blocked. Blessing’s follow-up volley was also blocked before being secured by Johnson.

Then, out of nowhere, Mitrita streaked down the left side with the ball at his feet, and finally cut it back right as LAFC’s left back Jordan Harvey caught up outside the six yard box. Mitrita ripped a shot into the far top corner, beating Miller to take a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute.

Shortly after, Mitrita drew a foul from Eduard Atuesta, who received the game’s first yellow card. Mitrita took the opportunity and let a shot go that fortunately hit the crossbar and bounced out. Miller finally secured the ball after another a James Sands shot, and LAFC was on the counter-attack.

Blessing turned just past the center circle, and lofted a ball ahead for Carlos Vela. Vela settled the ball while cutting off the trailing defender, and then tapped home the equalizer past a rushing Johnson in the 43rd minute.

LAFC could not dither, though, as in the next minute, Maximiliano Moralez tested Miller from the top of the box, but Miller strongly sent it back outside the box.

Despite matching NYCFC’s shot output at nine and tying the game, LAFC still suffered the same 69:31 disadvantage in possession they had suffered earlier by the end of the half. Having used the length and width of their home field to their advantage in the first two games, perhaps LAFC struggled to adjust to the smaller field and had trouble with timing and passing.

At halftime, Bob Bradley identified the struggles his team was having along the right side of their defense and modified his formation so that they were more secure on that side. Adama Diomande was also subbed in for Christian Ramirez, continuing the trend that was seen in the first two games.

The second half’s first piece of action came in the 52nd minute. Mitrita won a foul off of Blessing, and Moralez lofted the free kick towards the far post. It was headed back into the middle by Castellanos before it was headed past the net by Chanot.

LAFC bought a corner the next minute, but came up empty. But shortly after, Ben Sweat slide into Silva, earning New York’s first yellow card. The free kick curled towards the far post just outside the small box before Diomande got a good look, but headed the shot just wide left.

In the 60th minute, after Anton Tinnerholm drew a foul off Kaye, Mitrita found himself wide open with the ball at his feet just inside LAFC’s box. He shot right, but Danilo Silva did well to dive in at the last second to deflect the shot out for a corner.

It would not be enough to deter NYCFC, though. Off of a throw-in, Sweat dribbled down the left side past Zimmerman who was trying to keep Sweat from recovering possession and let the ball roll out for a goal kick. Instead, Sweat tapped the ball back into the middle of the box right before it crossed the goal line, and New York captain Alexander Ring buried the go-ahead goal in the upper left corner.

LAFC came back with some more aggression, as Kaye drew NYCFC’s second yellow card off Alexander Callens. Soon after, Silva drew a closer foul in the 66th minute. After New York briefly counter-attacked, LAFC came back with one of their own. Vela moved down the right side before laying it off for Rossi, whose shot was yet again blocked by Callens.

Probably understanding their home field better than LAFC, New York did well all game to pack the box and gang defend which resulted in many good Los Angeles looks being blocked.

The 71st minute saw a Moralez cross find Ring streaking down the middle of the box, whose header fortunately was placed straight to Miller’s hands.

Still losing the next minute, Bradley again was unafraid to make a change to try to give his team a boost. Adrien Perez came on for Diego Rossi to make his MLS debut.

Carlos Vela then received his first yellow card of 2019 after clipping Moralez. But he quickly shook it off, as an attack ended with Blessing drawing a penalty when he got fouled by Sweat after taking a shot. Vela slowly jogged up to the spot before slotting home his second equalizer of the day in the bottom left corner with 14 minutes left in regulation.

LAFC’s aggression did not stop there, as Vela created the next opportunity with a dribble down the right side. He found Diomande catching up to the play just outside the box, whose shot was ripped low and hard, but securely stopped by a diving Johnson.

New York decided to give their attack a boost as well. Castellanos was replaced by Jonathan Lewis in the 79th minute, but the defense was refreshed, too, as Jesus Medina stepped in for Ronald Matarrita five minutes later.

One of LAFC’s final chances to go ahead came in the 88th minute, when he turned while receiving a ball with Chanot on his back. Chanot held him and received New York’s third booking. Vela’s shot from the set piece was blocked, but Silva crossed it back in before Segura again hit it just wide.

New York swiftly came back down the field. Mitrita took on Zimmerman one-on-one with a series of feigns, but Zimmerman got one good poke in on the ball, which allowed Blessing to double-team. Mitrita turned away, tried to take a shot, but was blocked by Blessing, which then allowed Kaye to create the triple team. Kaye finally cleared the ball off Mitrita, but got tangled up. Kaye ended up on his back with his feet awkwardly stuck between Mitrita’s legs, who chose to stand over Kaye for an extended moment. The emotions seen all game came to its most intense when Kaye pushed Mitrita off with his hands, and were both separated before both receiving yellows in the 90th minute.

After all that, in the last of three minutes of extra time, a Harvey cross was poorly cleared by Chanot. The ball weakly bounced right to the feet of Diomande just outside the six, but Diomande ripped the game-winning chance well wide left.

For LAFC’s first match in the smaller Yankee Stadium, they did well to adjust, not play cramped, and come away with a point in their first road game of 2019. They worked the possession deficit down to a 60:40 New York advantage, but were also more efficient in finding more shots than New York despite limited possession (18 to 16). Los Angeles will have a bit of a short turnaround for their next match, as they will return to the Banc Saturday to face Real Salt Lake.

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