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Sophomore vs. Rookie: LAFC 2, FC Cincinnati 0

LA takes down MLS’s newest expansion team.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club hosted – then beat – the MLS’s newest expansion team FC Cincinnati on Saturday night. LAFC came into the weekend having not conceded a goal in the previous 235 minutes and the streak would continue through Saturday as they finished the night with a 2-0 victory.

Head coach Bob Bradley seems to have found his favorable starting lineup, sticking with the same shape and starting roster for the third straight week, except for Christian Ramirez who started in place of an injured Adama Diomande. And yet again, LAFC came out with high pressure from the first whistle.

After three tick-tack passes across the 18-yard line in the second minute, Latif Blessing ripped a low shot that was blocked, but then fell to the feet of Diego Rossi. He one-timed the rebound from just outside the six, but Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey made an amazing reactive save, tipping the line-drive shot over the bar for the game’s first corner.

The match was fast-paced from the first whistle, which unsurprisingly played to LAFC’s advantage. By the 15th minute, LAFC had taken four shots, earned two corners, and drawn four fouls while Cincinnati were limited to just one shot and had only drawn one foul in the same period.

Cincinnati robustly defended for most of the first half, but like many opponents before them, were unable to prevent LAFC from taking the lead in the first half.

LAFC’s first scoring opportunity since their first minute push came in the 26th minute when Eduard Atuesta swung in a curling cross from the right side. It fell right to an open Mark-Anthony Kaye in the middle of the box, but Kaye must have believed he was under pressure. Kaye accordingly tried to one-time the ball on net but did not hit it like he wanted, and it dribbled out for a goal kick.

The game’s first yellow did not come until the 30th minute. Diego Rossi pressured Cincinnati’s Kendall Waston in the attacking third and stole the ball. Rossi’s touch was such that he could sprint passed Waston, but knocked Rossi down before he could sprint ahead with an out-stretched arm and was penalized accordingly.

The free-kick did not produce any fruit, but the same push forced FC Cincy to concede a corner kick.

Vela’s following cross swung in during the 32nd minute. Both Jordan Harvey and Eddie Segura jumped to be the first to the ball, but it sailed over both. Fortunately, a third unmarked black shirt was waiting for the ball just outside the six as Kaye capitalized on the searching ball, heading home LAFC’s 20th goal on the season.

While LAFC went into the second half with a 1-0 lead, it did not come without some scary scoring chances from Cincinnati.

In minute 36, Walker Zimmerman jumped to contest a lofted ball at midfield but was bumped by a Cincinnati’s Kenny Saief and missed the first touch. Saief, following the ball, quickly passed by Zimmerman much like how Rossi had done to Waston earlier. Zimmerman had no choice but to take down Saief before he continued his breakaway on goal and take a yellow card.

Zimmerman turned the ball over after turning away from Darren Mattocks’s pressure. It seemed like he was going to play back to goalkeeper Tyler Miller, but Mattocks caught up and dispossessed Zimmerman. The loose ball fell to Saief who then played it back to Mattocks on the left side of the box. Mattocks feigned a shot, cut back inside, then ripped a curling shot towards the far post. Miller was up to the challenge however, making a stunning diving save, poking the ball by a fingertip out for CFC’s second corner.

LAFC took a 1-0 lead into halftime after three minutes of stoppage time, but not without the opportunities to take a multi-goal lead. The black shirts outshot FCC 10-2 and had controlled 57 percent of possession by the 45th minute. ­

In the 57th minute, Rossi cut it inside right on the 18-yard line and ripped a hard shot but it sailed right over the crossbar for a goal kick.

LAFC then made their first substitution in the 67th minute when Josh Perez replaced Ramirez.

The decision to replace Ramirez seemed to be a productive one, as fellow forward Rossi quickly found his next opportunity in the next minute. Another quick passing build-up right outside the box ended with Rossi cutting inside and shooting again, but this time was able to put it on net before Richey squarely caught it.

Like the first half, much of the second saw both teams jockeying for possession in the middle third for most of the time. By the 82nd minute, LAFC maintained a 56-44 possession advantage and had compiled 21 shots but inefficiently put only six of them on net.

LAFC hanging onto a 1-0 lead through the 90th minute would become a tougher task once after Zimmerman went down with an injury with eight minutes to spare. He was ushered to the sideline where he received medical attention before he was replaced by Danilo Silva.

Five minutes of extra time seemed like an eternity for Los Angeles to hold on, but the captain sealed the victory in the 94th minute. With a run down the right side, Carlos Vela let a shot go with Richey running out at him. It snuck under Richey and rolled into the net to send The 3252 into a frenzy for his eighth goal on the season, confirming LAFC’s seventh win.

After perhaps one of their most difficult victories so far, LAFC will likely continue their hot start to the franchise’s sophomore year as they will go up to Vancouver on Wednesday to visit a still winless Whitecaps side.

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