In their first meeting in almost a year, Los Angeles Football Club pulled away from the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night off the back of three Mark-Anthony Kaye assists. LAFC won 4-1 in dominating fashion, reestablishing a five point lead atop the Western Conference.
LAFC came back to their favorite lineup with Steven Beitashour, Jordan Harvey, Walker Zimmerman, and Kaye all returning to starting roles against a Seattle side also off to their best start in franchise history. LAFC dropped their first game of the season Wednesday when those listed started on the bench.
The first ten minutes of the match saw some sporadic back-and-forth gameplay. Both teams continuously tried to quickly combine for a fast scoring opportunity but without any luck.
Finally, a patient build-up down the right side of the attacking half turned into a real opportunity. Carlos Vela sent a pass from the right side to Kaye at the top of the box. Kaye turned and laid it off for a Diego Rossi shot from the left side that rolled back across the box out for a goal kick in the 10th minute. This was just the start of a big Sunday for Kaye.
Just a minute later, LAFC was back in form. After Latif Blessing tracked back to claim a loose ball near the left side of midfield, LAFC worked a few passes until Kaye turned and looked up field. With his left foot, Kaye curled a sniper of a through ball that found the feet of Vela. Vela, making a run that split the last two Seattle defenders, took a touch then quickly blasted it passed Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Seattle continued keeping the intensity high with scoring opportunity off a corner the next minute. Seattle’s Kim Kee-hee headed the cross from the right side towards the far post, but Tyler Miller sprawled to make a diving two-handed save.
Vela continued to keep the pressure up in the first half, carrying the ball upfield through the last two Seattle defenders in the 22nd minute. He beat Seattle’s Roman Torres who had no other choice than to purposefully take Vela down, earning the game’s first yellow.
Like clockwork, Vela took a touch to again split both middle defenders in the 44th minute. Beating Kim this time, Kim also chose to take Vela down instead of leaving the already-carded Torres alone to handle him. Now both Seattle center defenders were playing on yellows.
That would be Seattle’s last real opportunity for the rest of the half as LAFC began to take a more commanding control of the pace of the game. By the 25th minute, Los Angeles boasted a 63-37 possession advantage and had taken five shots to Seattle’s lone header.
Eduard Atuesta was assessed LAFC’s first yellow card in the 35th minute for time wasting when he threw the ball away after Seattle had just won a free kick. No team ever wants their center midfielder playing on a yellow, but Atuesta would immediately make up for it.
As Seattle began a counter attack out of their defending third in the 39th minute, Kaye deflected a pass when he stuck a foot out. The resulting loose ball fell to Atuesta without a defender in sight. After taking a couple of touches up field, he addressed the incoming Seattle defender with a fake shot. The fake froze the defender into an awkward slide. Atuesta took another composed touch just inside the box before ripping a line drive into the upper left corner.
LAFC went into halftime with the familiar 2-0 lead. In the last 20 minutes of the first half, Los Angeles had found three more shots and another goal all while keeping Seattle’s shot total at two.
What seemed like smooth sailing for the second half turned into a game again just five minutes in.
Atuesta was dispossessed by a double-team near midfield in the 51st minute. Eventually, Victor Rodriguez laid it off for Harry Shipp on the right side of the box. Harvey slipped trying to turn to defend Shipp. Left with nothing but space between him and Miller, Shipp took a calm touch before placing the goal in the bottom left corner.
But again, Atuesta would make up for his mistake.
Four minutes later, Blessing found Atuesta in the attacking third with a short pass. Atuesta immediately turned and sent a through ball that found the running Vela. Now inside the box, Vela feigned outside to the right before cutting inside. He dribbled past the diving Frei and even had enough time for one more touch to tee his shot, chipping the ball over a sliding, trailing defender for his second goal on the day.
After Seattle quickly scored to cut into LAFC’s two-goal lead, Los Angeles seemed to not be satisfied once they took a 3-1 lead. Just six minutes later, during which Kelvin Leerdam earned Seattle’s third yellow card, Christian Ramirez decided to join in on the scoring.
From the top of the left side of the box, Rossi turned inside to find Ramirez at the top of the box. Ramirez, sensing Kaye trailing him, backheeled a pass to Kaye. The defenders marking Ramirez reacted and stepped up to contest Kaye. Kaye one-timed a pass back to Ramirez who had just Frei to beat. Like Shipp’s goal, Ramirez took a calm touch of his own before placing home his first goal of the season and earning Kaye his third assist on the day.
Ramirez was finally substituted off in the 80th minute for Adrian Perez while Lee Nguyen replaced Beitashour and moved Blessing to right back. Peter-Lee Vassell came on in the 89th minute to replace Atuesta.
Vela’s goals not only added to his league-leading total of now 10, but also brought LAFC back to the familiar large leads they have so often enjoyed. Kaye’s playmaking in the final third paired perfectly with the quick decision-making of Vela, Atuesta, and Ramirez. LAFC also produced a strong, low-goal outing from a back line back at full strength after three of the four starters rested on Wednesday.
It was encouraging to see such a dominating performance out of the same team who fell to a winless Vancouver team earlier in the week, albeit with a weaker starting lineup. LAFC should be going into next week’s visit to Seattle confident that they can replicate Sunday’s outing.
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