Los Angeles Football Club’s unbeaten start to 2019 finally came to an end in Vancouver Wednesday night, going home without a point or goal for the first time in a 1-0 loss. Whitecaps FC earned their first victory with a goal from Inbeom Hwang.
With a second match in one week slated for LAFC on Sunday, the defensive line started with a few changes head coach Bob Bradley had not tried up to this point. Niko Hamalainen and Shaft Brewer each made their first MLS starts at left and right back, respectively, giving starters Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour a rest. Danilo Silva also started at center back in place of Walker Zimmerman, who didn’t travel as a precaution.
LAFC’s first pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, Peter-Lee Vassell, also made his first career MLS start at left midfield instead of Mark-Anthony Kaye.
Unlike LAFC’s first seven matches, Wednesday night began with each team playing cautiously and feeling each other out the first 12 minutes. Vancouver did try about three long balls to find an opportunity, but LAFC’s defense handled them all.
The game’s first real piece of action came in the 13th minute after the Whitecaps earned their second corner. After the cross was deflected away, Vancouver’s Yordy Reyna ripped a half-volley towards the near corner on the right side that was swiftly blocked away by a diving Tyler Miller.
The following corner saw a similar situation, as the crossing ball fell to the feat of Hwang. He tried to bend a shot inside the far post past the sprawling Miller, but it went just wide.
Eventually, LAFC started to find its groove. Latif Blessing made an amazing long run in the 19th minute from the right side of the midfield, down and across the attacking third, just outside the left side of the box before Vancouver’s Doneil Henry ran up and delivered a crunching slide tackle. Henry would be awarded the game’s first yellow card, Blessing walked away favoring what seemed to be his left collarbone or shoulder after spending a few minutes on the ground.
Blessing would get tripped up again in the 24th minute and seemed to re-aggravate his shoulder pain when bracing his fall with his left arm. Kaye started to warm up, but Blessing insisted he was alright.
Then, in the 25th minute, Carlos Vela found space on the left side. He curled in a cross and a streaking Vassell was first to it, heading down a shot that was promptly saved by Vancouver’s Maxime Crepeau.
Vancouver would take this possession right back down the field. Ali Adnan sprinted with the ball down the left side and crossed the ball back towards the top of the box. Victor “PC” Giro one-timed a bending shot that bounced off the upper right corner of the post. It fell to the feet of Hwang who then placed a scoring shot in the bottom left corner, opposite Miller.
This was the first goal LAFC had allowed in the past 352 minutes of play -- nearly four regulation matches.
Vancouver played quickly and decisively on the offensive end and when they lost the ball, the Whitecaps consistently brought 10 men back to defend. This prevented LAFC from finding their usual quick opportunities and rhythm.
In the 39th minute, Blessing was clipped by PC, and again clutched his shoulder. PC was given a yellow card after he had warned Vancouver not to foul the already ailing Blessing. As a result, however, Blessing was finally replaced by Kaye.
After 45 minutes of play and five minutes of stoppage time, Los Angeles found themselves with a starter too hurt to play on, a 1-0 deficit, and forced to play another starter they had hoped to rest against a winless team on the first end of a two-game week.
Though LAFC enjoyed their usual 57-43 possession advantage at halftime, Vancouver had kept up in shots while creating four corners to Los Angeles’ zero.
LAFC tried to change this in the first minute of the second half. Eduard Atuesta cut inside and ripped a shot that got tipped. The ball fell towards Diego Rossi, but Vancouver was able to clear it away first. Rossi stayed down after the sliding clearance holding his right arm.
Vancouver’s Lucas Venuto then found himself on a breakaway down the right side. He took his shot right at the 18-yard line, but Miller stood tall and blocked the straight shot back towards the middle where it was finally controlled by trailing LAFC players.
Danilo Silva earned LAFC’s first yellow card in the 53rd minute after a hard challenge in midair on Reyna.
After another 10 minutes of uneventful play, Bradley marched down his bench and told Mohamed El-Munir and Joshua Perez to line up at midfield. They would replace Hamalainen and Christian Ramirez, respectively.
Meanwhile, Venuto found another streak down the right side, but this time, Eddie Segura tracked back in time to poke the ball away twice before Venuto could get a clean shot off.
LAFC finally found its next scoring chance in the 70th minute. Vassell dropped off a pass from outside the box to El-Munir to the left. He seemed to mishit a shot that bounced across the box where Vela one-timed a missile right over the bar.
Tempers flared in the 72nd minute when Hwang took down a fast-breaking Rossi from behind with a flailing slide. Rossi immediately sprang up and moved towards the Korean, starting a mob of players keeping each other back. Hwang was eventually given Vancouver’s third yellow.
Still, LAFC continued to try to find the equalizer in the 76th minute. Vassell was given a little flick pass in the box from Vela. Having only the keeper to beat on the right side, Vassell feigned a shot then sent a shot into the side netting.
After he lost the ball working down the left side in the 80th minute, El-Munir tracked back and took down Vancouver’s Jakob Nerwinski with a slide and received LAFC’s second yellow.
Unlike LAFC’s previous matches, there were no late game fireworks nor was there a comfortable multi-goal lead to lean on. Vancouver would see the win through six minutes of stoppage time, being the first team to take down LAFC this season.
Los Angeles’s inability to consistently apply offensive pressure combined with an inexperienced back line proved to leave LAFC vulnerable just enough for Vancouver to put one in the win column.
LAFC will next return to The Banc on Sunday to host Seattle in the first end of a home-and-home.
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