Los Angeles Football Club returned home from their trip to New York and earned their second 2-1 extra time victory of the season, this time coming in the form of a Walker Zimmerman stunner in the 92nd minute over Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
Sporting a tweaked 4-3-3 lineup, Steven Beitashour returned to his starting right back position after missing the New York trip, but Latif Blessing and Andre Horta each made their first 2019 start at the left and right midfielder positions with Lee Nguyen hurt and Mark-Anthony Kaye on international duty.
The night began with plenty of early LAFC pressure as they enjoyed 70 percent of possession through the first 10 minutes. Though a shot was not produced, LAFC’s control forced Real Salt Lake’s Everton Ruiz to earn the game’s first yellow card in the fourth minute with after a hard sliding challenge that brought down Diego Rossi.
LAFC’s pressure persisted into the following few minutes as two quick passing combinations deep into the right wing ended with two crosses that were caught by Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Left back Jordan Harvey received the game’s second yellow in the 19th minute after he took out RSL’s Aaron Herrera near midfield with a slide from behind. Horta did the same just three minutes later for kicking the ball away after Salt Lake had earned a free kick.
The pettiness between the two teams continued in the 24th minute after Salt Lake’s Sebastian Saucedo held onto the ball after LAFC earned a throw-in and Beitashour pursued. The referee spoke to both of them seeming to tell them to cool it, but Saucedo went back to Beitashour and bumped him with his chest to earn the game’s fourth yellow card.
Through it all, LAFC continued to be aggressive down the right wing. In the 27th minute, Vela took the ball down towards the goal line and served a deep cross that Harvey volleyed right over the bar from inside the box.
Vela later cut inside at the top of the right side of the box, and the threat of taking a shot off his left foot forced Salt Lake to commit a foul. Vela ripped the free kick at the top right corner but it was athletically parried by Rimando.
Adama Diomande, who got his first start of the 2019 campaign at the striker position, seemed to have been accidentally taken down as the cross of the following corner was in the air, but no foul was given.
Suddenly, Salt Lake took their chances against LAFC’s defense with two shot attempts that got blocked. Then in the 33rd minute, Blessing fouled Saucedo just inside the box and gave Salt Lake a penalty. Damir Kreilach buried the shot in the bottom right corner.
Play cooled down for the next six minutes before LAFC came back with a picture-perfect passing combination to tie it up.
In the 40th minute, Eddie Segura’s pass from midfield allowed Atuesta to turn and find Vela crossing towards the middle. Vela then quickly played the ball to Blessing making a run from the left towards the top of the box. Blessing laid it off for Diomande who mirrored Blessing’s run on the right side. The pass was blocked before a trailing Rossi hammered home the equalizer just outside the six yard box for his second goal on the season.
After three minutes of stoppage time, LAFC went into halftime with a 1-1 tie having controlled 63 percent of possession and taken eight shots to RSL’s two.
The second half started with some back-and-forth play. LAFC continued to control most of the game, and Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman committed two fouls in the span of one minute. He was given a yellow card for clipping Vela in the 55th minute. Atuesta took the free kick from quite far out but was able to laser a shot into Rimando’s chest.
LAFC earned their first corner kick of the second half and seventh of the game in the 58th minute. Vela’s cross was found by a Zimmerman header inside the box, but it was blocked by the mass of players before reaching Rimando.
The back-and-forth continued past the 65th minute. Saucedo went down with an injury in the 64th minute and was replaced in the 68th minute by Nick Besler. Real Salt Lake did well to weather LAFC’s consistent push while being undermanned but were forced to concede a string of corners.
RSL conceded a corner for the ninth time in the 72nd minute. Vela’s curling cross was headed down to the feet of Atuesta just outside the six-yard box. He quickly turned and shot low with a defender between him and the goal before the ball was stopped by the right paw of Rimando on the line.
Another Vela run down the right side ended with a deflected shot just missed the right side of the gaol and giving LAFC their 10th corner kick. Vela’s cross again was met first by another black shirt, but Zimmerman’s header was deflected out for LAFC’s 11th corner, which was squandered when LAFC was called for a foul on the kick.
In the 78th minute, Bob Bradley subbed in two Perezes, each making their home MLS debuts. LAFC’s 64th overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, Spaniard Javi Perez came on in place for Horta, who was unable to get going for most of the game. Ontario native Adrien Perez, one of LAFC’s newest signings, also came on in place of Diomande, who as well probably had less impact than hoped for.
After Kreilech was shown the game’s sixth yellow card for a bad foul on Beitashour in the 79th minute, Finnish-American Niko Hamalainen served as LAFC’s final substitution. The defender, on loan from Queens Park Rangers, replaced Jordan Harvey to complete the trifecta of new signings subbing on to make his MLS debut.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake’s Justin Portillo also made his MLS debut, coming on in the 75th minute, but ended it quickly after he took down Rossi with an extended arm chasing after a loose ball. Portillo was shown a red card and sent off after just nine minutes of play.
Now with a man advantage, LAFC’s pressure started to get to Salt Lake. In the 86th minute, some patient passing and quick decisions created an opportunity for a hard low shot right at Rimando from Javi Perez from just outside the box.
A few minutes later, Hamalainen tee’d up a shot for Zimmerman from about ten yards outside the box. Zimmerman’s shot knuckled inside then back out, freezing Rimando, who watched the ball sail past into the top right corner of the net. Zimmerman sprinted down the field celebrating, and The 3252 celebrated the familiar late fireworks.
Herrera was given the game’s final yellow card for a bad foul in the 93rd minute, but LAFC ended the night with another 2-1 win due to a goal in the final minutes of extra time just like their opening day victory against Sporting Kansas City when Diomande buried the winner. After starting March with now three wins and a draw, LAFC will try to remain undefeated with their final match of the month next Saturday in San Jose.
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